Start the new school year without breaking your family budget with these savvy ways to save on back-to-school supplies.
How to Save on Back-to-School Supplies
It’s hard to believe that at one time, I had to gather five backpacks worth of supplies each year for the beginning of school. And, believe me, I cringed at the thought of having to buy them year after year. That is, until I learned some tricks-of-the-trade to save big on back to school supplies.
You can too with these helpful and handy money-saving tips.
The fact is, for many families shopping for school supplies is not only a hassle but also a drain on ones’ pocketbook. But it doesn’t have to be.
Rather than get frazzled or overwhelmed by all the hoopla right before school, be proactive and set yourself up for success this year.
Here are seven savvy ways to save big on back-to-school supplies:
1. Empty Last Year’s Backpack
Before you start shopping for school supplies, start by opening your child’s backpack. You wont’ know what treasures or trash you might find until you do.
While you’re at it, now’s also a good time to check out the backpack’s shoulder straps and make sure that they aren’t torn or worn. Also check for any holes.
Did You Know? Most children do not carry the allowable amount of pounds of books or supplies that the National Orthepaedic Association recommends. In fact, most children carry two to three times that amount and some backpacks can weigh in excess of 25 pounds!
Keep in mind, that as your child grows, so too should their backpack. Don’t go for the cutsey ones, rather go for the hardworking, well-padded bags that will be supported properly by your child’s back and shoulders.
When you do finally purchase their school supplies, show your child how to pack their backpack so that the weight is evenly distributed.
And, if you are keeping the same backpack from last year, don’t forget to wash your child’s backpack. All it takes is a quick swish of water with some sudsy dish detergent, follow with a good rinse, and finally air dry in the sun works well for most packs.
What to Consider When Purchasing a New Backpack
- Backpacks should be no more than 10-15 percent of a child’s weight. • Backpacks that weigh more than that have the potential to cause back strain or even worse, cause arthritis in the back when your child gets older. • Extreme weight of backpacks can also affect the heart and lungs in children.
- If possible, request a set of textbooks to remain at school and one set to be kept at home.
- Periodically check your child’s backpack to see if it is too heavy.
- At the beginning of each year, inspect your child’s backpack for rips, tears. Replace if necessary.
- Listen to your children’s complaints. If they say the backpack is too heavy, it probably is.
- Work with school officials so that there is an all-school moratorium on backpack weight limits.
2. Take an Inventory
One of the best tips I can offer is to take an inventory of those items you currently have in your home. Do this after you have emptied out your child’s backpack.
3. Make a List
Keep your list handy. I suggest to make two columns, one column to mark what you currently have in stock and one for what supplies you need. Then, make a extra copy of this list and take it with you when you go shopping.
The best part of having a supply list is to keep you from feeling the urge to splurge.
It’s easy when perusing the aisles to sneak in a few “extras.” If your budget is really tight, pass on the “frilly” locker keepers, kitschy mini-pens and pencils that hang off one’s backpack. Instead, set achievable spending limits and splurge only on one or two “fun” things for your child.
Back-to-School Tip: In recent years, there has been an increase of companies offering school supplies already pre-bundled for a child’s specified grade/school. You can take advantage of these programs, oftentimes at a discounted price. Just check the packing list against your child’s school supply list and you are all set. Many online companies offer this same service, so with a few clicks, you can order your child’s supplies hassle-free and might even deliver the supplies right to your school, too! Check out EduKit, School-Pak, SchoolKidz, and Amazon.com.
4. Enlist Help of Friends
Check with your child’s friends and parents to see what extra supplies they might have. Better yet, start a Swap-n-Go party. It’s possible that you might have some supplies that the others might not have and vice versa.
This also works for clothes exchanges and even used band or orchestra equipment. Ask around to see if anyone has an instrument, sheet music or music book that your child might need their classes.
RELATED: Secrets for Getting Free or Nearly Free Used Musical Instruments.
5. Shop Early
Trust me, it is so easy to procrastinate until the last minute to purchase your child’s school supplies. The downside is that you might find that supplies will be limited and you’ll have to pay a premium on items that once were on sale.
Keep in mind that most large department stores offer “going back to school” sales starting in early July.
If you are a regular shopper at these stores, you’ll probably begin to see the increase of aisles dedicated to pencils, erasers, paper and rulers, plus a whole lot of other “school-inspired” paraphernalia that product manufacturers hope you will be enticed to buy.
Back-to-School Tip: One of the places that I have found to be the best for all of my back-to-school supply shopping is Amazon.com. Not only are the prices competitive but the items are shipped together and I don’t have to waste time traveling from store to store to get the best deals. Shopping is as easy as point, click and purchase. And some of the supplies are bundled by grade. Beats trying to remember what you need if your school doesn’t supply your children with a class supply list.
If it is difficult to drag yourself out to the department stores or even look online at school supplies, especially since you and the kids are just now getting used to summer break and summertime activities, just take one day to do this task.
The idea here is not to overwhelm yourself or be stressed out that summer goes so quickly (as it usually seems for us parents).
Don’t forget to pack your kid’s backpacks the same day that you purchase the supplies. Then go on about your summer business, feeling secure that you have done the brunt of shopping and can now enjoy the rest of your summer in peace.
6. Buy Extra and Buy in Bulk
One of the best tips I learned is to purchase extra pencils, papers, erasers, and yes, even rulers (they do break, you know). I also stock up on a box or two of crayons, markers (large and thin) and plenty of pens and notecards. You will never go wrong with these supplies.
You can even compare your list with your friends and as a group you can save bundles when buying in bulk. Go one step further and make it a date with your child’s friends moms (or dads) for a “Swap-n-Get” party where moms (or dads) can get together for a morning shopping trip. And, don’t forget to round out this outing with a well-deserved brunch or lunch.
One question I often get is what to do with the extra supplies when your kids finally move onto college? Might I suggest a care package for your “cash-strapped” college student. And, if they don’t need these supplies, you can always donate the excess to a local school in need.
7. Store and Go
It’s easy to keep school supplies in its place with clear storage totes and boxes. That way you can easily see what you have inside without having to take off the lid. I have used this tip for years to much success. Here are two of my favorite items:
Pencil Boxes: I keep all of the same “Like” items together in smaller totes or Clear Pencil Boxes.
Clear Storage Totes: This has been a life saver for me: Sterilite Storage Boxes. You can store large or bulk items together or designate one bin per child. Either way, its a win-win situation. I have used several of these boxes to house my kid’s art projects and other “memory-worthy” stuff. I label these with my kid’s name, grade, and year. Everything is neat and tidy–just the way I like it!
The advantage to a clear storage container is that you can see the contents without having to always guess or worse yet, have to unstack and them to get to the one you hope is the right one.
I hope these tips help you to be prepared for the upcoming school year. Not only will they save you bundles in cash, but you will also be ready to tackle next year’s and the year’s after supply lists with ease. Happy Shopping!
For more great family tips, be sure to check out Wisconsin Homemaker’s Family Life Section.