8 Back to School Shopping Hacks That Save Money




back to school shopping hacks

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There is no question that back to school shopping hacks can save parents a lot of money.

For me personally, is the most wonderful time of the year!  It’s the hap-happiest season of all.

With those school district greetings and parent-teacher meetings, when teachers and class dojo messages come to call, it’s MY hap-happiest season of all!

Kidding aside, a family can spend oodles of cash on back to school shopping.  No Joke.

Parents spend a lot of money on back to school supplies each year.  According to the National Retail Federation, parents with children that are elementary through high school age will spend on average $696.70.  Spending for children in grades k-12 will top $26.2 billion for back to school supplies.

These back to school shopping hacks below will not only save you stress, but will also help your family save money.

Your household can use that saved money for other expenses in your changing household budget strategy or put it towards a wealth-building strategy.

8 Back to School Shopping Hacks That Will Save Your Family Money

Back to School Shopping List Inventory

One of the best things to focus on for back to school shopping is to use up what you have on hand.

Be sure to get your back to school shopping list from your children’s teachers.

Some of the things you may find on your back to school shopping list would be items found below in our back to school shopping list inventory chart.

BindersGraphing CalculatorBackpack
PensiPadLaptop Backpack
PencilsLaptopiPad Case
FoldersChargersInsulated Lunch Bag
Graphing Paper
Note Cards

You probably have leftover items from last year’s back to school shopping list.

If you run an organized household, you probably have an area where you put leftover school supplies from the prior year.

Go through those items and see what can be used and what cannot.

If you notice a lot of items that your kids refuse to use, put those in a pile for a donation.

There is no point to holding onto old supplies if kids refuse to use them.

My kids chump me like this all the time.  I get it though they don’t want to use a trapper keeper from the 80’s.

When you donate them, you can get a donation slip which is a great advantage at tax time if your household itemizes.

Write School Shopping List with Kids

Take the time to sit down with your kids and write the list out with them.  This is one of the best back to school shopping hacks because your child will be involved and vested in the process by writing the list with you.

The other option is to have your child start the list on their own so you can see what they think may be important and then review the list together.

This will reinforce their role and responsibility in shopping for supplies (#ParentingTip).

It also will confirm that what you end up buying they will absolutely love and use.

If you have a class list from the teacher, praise be.  Your battle is half over.

If not, then come up with a generic one of must-have absolute items that will be used or refer to our back to school shopping list chart above.

Ticonderoga pencils and notebooks would be a few items along with some of the items below:

  • Pens
  • Markers
  • Highlighters
  • Rulers
  • Loose leaf paper
  • Erasers
  • Crayola’s

Do not focus just on school supplies.  This is one of THE BEST times to update their clothing wardrobe.

If you have money in your budget to buy new clothes, you can find all kinds of sales at department stores.

Last year I ended up spending about $60 and got 10 pairs of Cat and Jack jeans at Target.

There was an amazing sale for $4.99 a pair.

At that price, it is actually cheaper than looking at a second hand store.

What made the sale truly great was that I had everything delivered to my house so I did not have to battle the lines, find parking, or try to dig through what was on the shelf.  I also bought future sizes as well.

Have a Budget Limit

Back to school shopping can get expensive fast.  It’s good to set a limit before-hand especially if you are shopping with your kids.

Having a budget limit is one of the best budgeting tips and tricks that you can use.

back to school shopping

If your kids are like mine, I can’t go into any store without my kids trying to get me to buy them something.

Having a budget limit in place when you are back to school shopping is a great way to teach your kids about money and you should use cash to pay for everything, not credit.

It will teach them how to plan out and prioritize what is really important and essential.

If you pay with cash, it is much easier for your kids to watch, learn, and follow along.

I do this in many areas in my household with my kids.

When you are a parent and raising children, you can turn all kinds of these moments into teachable moments.

You can also introduce the reward system to your kids with back to school shopping.

If your kids do a good job shopping, maybe you can reward them with a special purchase.

Develop a checklist for them to follow along through the whole back to school shopping process.

Look at the checklist at the end to see if everything has been purchased and that you are under your budget limit you set for everything.

This is a great exercise for younger kids also and helps them develop self-achievement and accomplishment.

Swap Event

If you are not fortunate enough to purchase new clothes and supplies, you might be able to find a swap event.

  • Facebook has several of these groups.  I have seen these pop up in FB groups.  The idea is to swap with another family and items that your kids no longer need.  It’s a great way to get rid of your stuff and also get items that your kids need.  It is also helping out another family who might also be having tough times financially.
  • Some schools have areas for drop off and pick up for clothing.  When I had my kids in a private school, the school had a closet with old uniform shirts and pants.  Families would just drop off clothes that did not fit their kids anymore and if a family was in need of some clothes, they would just go there and see what was available.  This saved my household hundreds of dollars each year.

Contact your school PTO or principal to see if one could be organized at your school.

Shop, Thrift Stores, Garage Sales, and FB Groups

If you can’t find a swapping event and do not want to pay full price or mall retail, the next best thing would be to shop second hand.

  • Thrift stores can have amazing deals on kids clothing.  The way you can clean up at a Thrift Store is if they run promotions.

Sometimes they will run 50% off all green tagged clothing so you literally are only paying a few bucks for a pair of jeans.

I scored some sweet Tony Hawk jeans this way, for my kids!

Although you need to jump on this early, because if you wait until right before school starts, chances are there will not be much left and a lot of the clothes will be picked over.

I mean you don’t really want to send your kid to school in that Hawaiian shirt do you?

  • You can also cruise garage sales.  Although this is a lot more time consuming, but you can get some quality stuff sometimes.

It can be hit or miss though.  Since I have boys, I tend to look for clothes that are not worn out already.

If they are, I do not buy because they will not last a school season.

Kids are ALL over those playgrounds running, going down slides on their knees, and trying to be guardians of the swing set.

As such, you need clothing that is in good condition so they will last.

  • Another avenue is to check out FB.  The community I live in has a “buy and sell” page with over 5,000 active families on it.

I prefer this option over Craigslist because the people are from your community and connected on FB.

Plus, it is a good way to meet new people in your neighborhood and community.


Collecting coupons is also a great back to school shopping hack to save money when doing back to school shopping.

This does take some time however sometimes so you will have to determine if it is worth it to your family.

Between shuttling my kids all around for summer camp and baseball, I don’t have much time left to look for coupons but it is worth mentioning because it can add up to big savings.

There are two ways to do this:

Old School

You could go old school with coupons and look for “paper” coupons in the Sunday paper.  Check out where to get free newspapers for coupons.

I get a ton of mailers in the mail as well for coupons that are sent to me all the time.

You can also try to google coupons as well and you may score a printable one from online somewhere.

Finally there are also buy now pay later stores that offer another choice for consumers.

Social Media

Now a days, it seems like every store sends you coupons online.

A lot of stores will send you electronic coupons if you sign up with their store online.

Additionally, many chains now have Twitter and Instagram accounts and also send out promotions that way.

Or they may send a coupon to you via text.  There are tons of cash back apps that offer instant rewards.

If you are signed up to receive their notifications, it is a great way to score some money off of your purchase.

I recently received an email from Target notifying me of 20% off on a certain product I needed.  Win-win.

Ask for a Price Match

Some stores will price match.  You should ask every store about their policy.

I do this routinely with a major department store who price matches with Amazon.

I will then use that store’s credit card to receive it cheaper even!  Score.

Although sometimes you do have to watch out and check store prices because sometimes things are actually cheaper in the store than online.

Save Receipts

Always save your receipts for 60 days.

There are a few reasons to do this. One, the item may actually go on sale in the future if you ended up paying full price for it.  Normally if it is within a certain time period the store will give you the difference back.

Second, it is good to have a receipt in case the product breaks or is defective.  I have had this happen a few times with items I have purchased for my kids.

I specifically remember a pencil box that broke on the second day.  If you have your receipt, you can return it.

Save Money with Back to School Shopping Hacks

With the money you save, you can put it towards other areas in your household budget.  I was able to grab some clothes for my kids last month on sale.

back to school sho

Whatever your household budget goals are, be sure to take a look at them each month, especially if you have extra income available.

Use a personal finance flowchart to help assist you with that task.

Following these back to school shopping hacks will net you savings.

It is also one of the best lessons to teach your kids about money management and sticking to a budget.

Plan ahead early in the summer on what your strategy will be for back to school shopping and work with your kids so they can develop essential skills.

Oh and remember, it’s the most wonderful time of the year!


back to school shopping list

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2 responses to “8 Back to School Shopping Hacks That Save Money”

  1. Mark Avatar

    Some great ideas. Now if my kids were only back home. Nice looking family.

    1. Bryan Avatar

      Hey Mark – Thanks for the comments! These kids now a days, they are never in school with all the time off they get! lol. What is a parent to do?!

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