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Back to School Shopping-Strategies for Shopping on A Budget

By Edited Jul 13, 2016 4 8

Save Money on Back to School Items for 2016!

The supply list gets longer every year, but there are ways to do your back to school shopping on a budget. In the past, all we needed for school were a few number two pencils, a box of Crayola crayons, a marble composition book and a school bag to carry it all in.

This year, the fourth grade school supply list has 28 different items that I need to buy for my twins before school begins (that’s not counting the multiples of each I need, like 3 packs of index cards per child). My daughter, who is a high school senior, doesn’t get a list; her teachers tell her what she needs on the first day of school. We play defense and buy the things we know she will need, based on past experience.

In order to get the best back to school supplies and still stay on a budget, I power shop using the following strategies.

Get a Staples Rewards Card

One of the best stores for deals is Staples. Sign up for their Rewards Program and start earning Staples dollars on all purchases and on empty printer cartridges that you return to the store. There are also promotions at different times during the year that will earn you additional Staples Rewards on top of what you normally would aquire.

You will receive an email each quarter with the dollars you have earned. They are good for sixty days. Using Staples Rewards, I score the best back to school deals-free school supplies!

To make shopping even sweeter, you can use the Staples Easy Rebates and have the store pay you for school supplies. Here is an example:

I had eighteen dollars in Staples Rewards-ten dollars on a Staples gift card from a previous promotion and eight dollars from cartridge returns. The store was having their penny sale, where you can buy certain school supplies for a penny with a five dollar purchase (limit two of each).

Copy paper was on sale for 25 cents if you did the easy rebate. First I had to pay the $6.74 for each of the packages.

I bought two packages and six penny items for a total of $14.37 (including tax). It was all free, because I paid with Staples Rewards.

But that is not the best part.

In my Paypal account, I am getting a $13.48 rebate for the copy paper! I can use that money to buy other cheap school supplies for my kids.

I Laugh Out Loud Every Time I See This Commercial!

Shop the Back to School Deals

Target, Walmart, Kmart and other big box retailers and drug stores all advertise loss leaders (a few really cheap items) to lure you into the store for items your kids need for school.  They do this in the hope that you will buy the other things that are not on sale so you can just get all of your shopping done at once.

Be strong!

While you are shopping the deals, buy a few extras.  Crayons will break and scissors will get lost.  The best prices on school supplies are in the summer.  For example, I just bought my twins several four packs of dry erase markers for fifty cents a pack.  They normally sell for $4.29 during the school year.  When they get dry, I can send them to school with a new pack I purchased at the sale price.

I Wish My School Supply List Was This Short!

Buy Backpacks and Lunchboxes at Kohl’s

For years, Kohl’s has been my go-to place for backpacks.  Although it is frugal to reuse the same backpack until it falls apart, I do not do this for two reasons.  Growing up, it was a tradition for my brother and me to pick out a new book bag-a fresh bag for a fresh year.  I continue this with my own children.

My kids also use the previous year’s backpack as a camp bag.  After six weeks of being dragged around in the dirt, we toss it.  It is no longer suitable for school use.

I know some people whose children reuse their lunch boxes for several years.  Personally, I do not know how they do it!  By June, my kids lunch boxes are ready for the trash.  That is another item we buy new each school year.

The Secret Life of Pets Backpack

Every summer, Kohl’s has the best brands of backpacks and lunch boxes like this The Secret Life of Pets backpack pictured above. It is on sale and you can usually combine those with a 30% online coupon code and buy an expensive backpack for very little money.  For the best selection and availability, shop online for your back to school supplies.

Shop the Clearance Rack School Outfits

One of the things I love about the first day of school is seeing the kids with fresh haircuts and new outfits.  It’s a clean slate for everybody!  Even when I was a teacher, I had to have a new outfit for the first day of school.

First day of school outfits are really summer clothes, since the weather is still warm.  Retailers are pushing sweaters and long pants, but no child will be wearing those on the first day of school.  These items will be on sale during Columbus Day, when holiday dress up clothing needs to be front and center.

Save money and go to the clearance rack of your favorite retailer.  Short sleeved shirts, shirts, skorts and polo shirts will be plentiful.

Remember When Commercials Were a Minute Long?

Shop Online Sales School Shoes

One thing I do not skimp on is my children’s footwear.  Running in bad sneakers can cause big problems later on.  We buy our children’s shoes at shoebuy.com.  I receive their emails and there is always some kind of discount available.  We save additional money by purchasing the shoes via our credit card rewards website.  Combine that with free shipping both ways, and we save a lot of money on shoes, a necessary and expensive back to school item.

Create a Stockpile of Snacks

I have three growing kids who eat a lot.  Even though I bake a lot of homemade treats, there are still food items that I  need to buy.  Because of our natural diet, I have to take advantage of all the deals that I can that are on the “safe” food list.  I shop at Whole Foods and the organic section of the supermarket to get stock up and get the best deals on organic and natural foods.  It saves me time and money when the time for packing school lunches begins again.

These strategies for back to school shopping on a budget work.  By investing my time bargain shopping during the summer, I save money, as well as time, during the busy school year.

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Jul 9, 2012 1:36pm
This is excellent advice for back-to-school shopping. I have a daughter who is a school teacher, and she is on a very tight budget when she buys supplies for her kids. I'll give her your suggestions, and it might help her out!
Jul 24, 2012 11:01am
I shop every week for the sales. By the end of August, I will have everything my kids need and not have paid full price for anything! She should ask the stores for special teacher bulk rates or discounts. Also have her check the endcaps of stores like Target. I just bought my son Diary of a Wimpy Kid folders for 50 cents each!
Jul 10, 2012 11:05am
You have provided some very good tips on back-to-school shopping. I like the idea of creating a stockpile of snacks, you can never have enough snacks! "Thumbs-up."
Jul 24, 2012 11:02am
I am amazed at how much kids consume, especially my son, who is 9.5! The funny thing is I can still have a stockpile and have "nothing to eat" in the house.
Aug 27, 2012 5:15am
Great Job MMM right on time too! Thumbs up from me.
Aug 27, 2012 5:49am
Thank you dreamaker! I finally finished my back to school shopping last week. It took a while to get the best deals, but it was worth it!
Aug 29, 2012 7:09am
gud info frm a very experienced lady thnksssss:))
Aug 29, 2012 8:52pm
Perfect timing I'm going shopping tomorrow and i never even knew there was a shoppers rewards card! thanks :D
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