Saving on School Supplies

by A Guest Writer · 6 comments

in Guest Posts

A few packets of pencils, more erasers, add a dozen pens and a few notebooks and watch the total money spent on school supplies soar. Many parents don’t bother to budget for these ancillary materials during back-to-school shopping but according to the National Retail Federation an estimated 3.1 billion dollars were spent last year on these products. That’s not chump change.  So what can you do to avoid unnecessary spending on these types of school supplies? Just follow these tips and you’ll see the difference once you reach the cash register.

Reuse Old Supplies: Have your kids do an inventory of the supplies they have left over from last year. Chances are they will have erasers, pens, rulers, a calculator, crayons and even a carry case to keep them in. Why bother buying new stuff when the old things work just as well.

Buy in Bulk: When you discover a big sale at your local retailer don’t just buy what you need for the beginning of the school year. These items will probably be back to full price during the school year so purchase enough to last you through the term. This will enable you to replenish your kids’ school supplies as needed and will also save you another trip to the store.

Hunt for Values: One store may have a stellar sale on crayons while another may be offering notebooks or notebook paper for half price, if that’s the case then purchase what you need at one retailer and leave for the next store. If you don’t want to waste the extra gas find out which store price matches and then do all of your shopping there instead of driving around.

Tax-Free Holiday Shop: Find out if your state is offering tax-free holiday shopping and then do your purchasing on the designated days. You could save big money even if you have to fight the crowds. So remember to bring some extra patience with you.

Avoid the Extras: Once you start shopping you and your kids will start to notice all the cool items for sale such as the wild variety of crayons, markers, pens and other accessories. Just ignore that stuff. Go for the basics because in a few weeks all those fancy things will be collecting dust as your kids utilize their pens and pencils. Remember, all those glam-looking items are just there to entice you to spend money. It’s like the shelves of candy at the checkout line, sure it looks good but do you really need to spend the extra money – and that money adds up quickly.

Customize: If your kids don’t like their “plain” looking school supplies then have them embellish them with their own drawings, or buy favorite stickers and you’ll witness their notebooks, backpacks and other accessories become unique to their own tastes.

There you have it, a few quick and easy tips to help you save money this back-to-school shopping season. But there’s one other thing you should keep in mind, stay focused and disciplined and you’ll reap the benefits of being a savvy shopper.

About the Author

The following is a guest post from Kathryn Katz, a Certified Personal Finance Counselor who works for Consolidated Credit Counseling Services in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Their non-profit agency helps families through financial crisis using credit counseling, debt consolidation and financial education.


1 Jenna July 16, 2010

Also, make sure you get a list from your future teacher (or school) that way you know exactly what your child needs rather than just blindly guessing.

2 Black Friday Sales July 16, 2010

I always shop after major holidays and buy up the packets of holiday themed pencils, erasers, notebooks etc once they are supremely reduced, thus saving money and having a steady supply of school items on hand.

Warm regards,


3 Donna Freedman July 17, 2010

Probably this weekend, but certainly by the end of July, the big-box office stores (Staples et al.) should be running their loss leaders. They may start slowly but if this year is anything like the last few you will be seeing 10-cent notebook paper and 1-cent packages of pencils.

Buy the limit, whether it's three or six. As the OP noted, you will need this stuff all year long. And if you over-buy? You've got a head start for next year.

Also, some of these items make good stocking stuffers, birthday-party favors or small holiday gifts. For example, I packaged 5-cent crayons (24-packs, by the way) with some coloring books I got for 8 cents each on the clearance table after the holidays.

If you don't have kids, please consider buying a few of these super-cheap items and donating them to your local food bank (if they'll take them — the one in my neighborhood is screaming for the stuff, to hand out to parents), social services agency or area school (teachers end up buying stuff for the kids who come to school unprepared). Just a thought. A dollar or less out of your pocket and you've made a HUGE difference in some children's lives.

4 Berenike July 18, 2010

Watch office supply stores (Office Max, Staples, etc.) for sales on heavy-duty presentation binders. They cost a bit more, but they’ll last many years. They come with clear sleeves on the front and back, as well as the spine, so kids can slide in a new picture or decorated cover any time they want a new look.

Also, if your school has supply lists for every grade, ask a teacher for one for each year–it will allow you to buy in bulk and put things away for future years. Your child may only be in second grade, but if you find a good sale, it may be easier to buy things for third and fourth grade, as well, and simply store them safely.

5 Pamela July 30, 2010

These are very good tips. Making a list is a must. I also save by buying in bulk and using coupons. Kids are most likely to lose their pens, pencils and other stuff anyway,at least we still have some spares. And coupons help lessen the cost.

6 Melanie August 4, 2010

I don’t see the point in buying 3 years worth of school supplies at a time.

Part of the fun of a new school year is getting new supplies. Buy within reason. It will go no sale again.

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