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How to Save Money on Back to School Supplies

How to Save Money on Back to School Supplies

Minimizing the cost of back-to-school shopping is easier than you think. Use these 7 budget-friendly tips for finding back to school bargains, all suggested by Circle of Moms members who are seasoned deal shoppers.

1. Sales Tax Holidays

A free pass on the sales tax? You bet! Over a dozen U.S. states have scheduled a sales tax holiday this summer, with sales tax exemptions covering items such as clothing, computers, and school supplies. As Wendy K. shares: “I...wait until the tax-free week to make most of my purchases. Last year I bought all supplies for both my children for under $20.” Check your state’s dates soon though—the free days for many states are during the first week of August.

2. Buying in Bulk

You may not need a dozen Kleenex boxes or several reams of paper, but if you pair up with friends or neighbors you can buy school supplies in bulk for serious savings. As Tamra S. suggests: “Get together with other parents and buy in bulk at Sam's Club or Costco and split the cost.” Karen C. agrees: “I have been known to go in with friends for bigger packs of stuff and divide the cost with them.”

3. Dollar Stores

As Brandy K. advises, dollar stores are a prime source for cheap school supplies: “You can go to the dollar store and get everything you need and get it in funky colors or with certain cartoon characters on it for much less than $40."

4. Penny Sales

Many Circle of Moms members advise shopping at Staples throughout the summer to take advantage of the store's 1-cent back to school sales. Kari S. explains: “I wait for Staples to have their penny sales and buy whatever is on sale. It means going shopping there about once a week, most weeks during the summer, but I end up with all my school supplies for only a few dollars.” Other stores offer great back to school sales too, shares Sara H.: “WalMart, Office Depot and places like that often have amazing sales this time of year.” “

5. Community Boards

Graphing calculators, required by many high school math classes, can run over $100. If your child needs  expensive supplies, check your local community college. As Brittany G. explains, “Most of my expensive school supplies I got as a hand-me-down from my sister but you can also get them for over half off if you look at the local Community College sell boards."

6. Giveaways

Many communities hold back-to-school fundraisers to collect school supplies for families on tight budgets. Katie B. shares: “There is a church in my town that has had a drive/fundraiser where they get a bunch of different school supplies and backpacks. Then they fill the backpacks with the items they recieve (usually just the basic stuff, pencils, crayons, notebooks). All a family has to do is call and say how many backpacks they need."

7. End-of-September Sales

Stock up for next year during end-of-September sales on school supplies. “Each year [at the] end of September or when the stores put all the supplies on clearance, I purchase what I need for the next year.” 

Image Source: Kain Kalju via Flickr/Creative Commons

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ChetMC ChetMC 2 years
I'm careful to invest in quality supplies. I look for good prices and sales, and stock up when I find them, but I'm careful not to get sucked in by low prices on poor quality goods. A high quality backpack, school bag or lunch box should last for years and years even with regular and hard use. Interestingly, I rarely find end of September sales. Once the summer back to school sales are over "school supplies" go back to being classified as office, art or stationary supplies and are outrageously priced. The $0.25 boxes of crayons about back up to $1.00 or $2.00. The $1.00 boxes are markets are back up $5.00. The $0.17 scribblers at Walmart are back up to $3.97.
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