Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

7 ways to save on back to school shopping costs

With inflated gas and grocery prices, how will we afford back-to-school shopping this year?
Stressed about how much you'll have to spend to get everything on your child's school supply list? To help you cut costs too, here are seven ways you can tackle back-to-school shopping–without breaking the bank.

As a mom of three kids ranging in age from 8 to 15, back-to-school shopping has become a big family expense. In years past, I’ve been lazy, apathetically opting for the pre-packaged back-to-school supply kits, letting my kids choose shoes, backpacks, and outfits for their return to school without looking at the price tags, and waiting until the last minute to pick up other must-have items. This year, with higher gas and grocery prices cutting into our family costs, I’ve decided to invest more time (and less money) in our back-to-school spend.

To help you cut costs too, here are seven ways you can tackle back-to-school shopping–without breaking the bank.

Shop online instead of in-store

School supply companies like EduPac will package up everything you need and deliver the supplies directly to your school, which is great for first-time school kids who need it all. But for returning students, it’s likely that many of the items on the list are already in your cupboard from past years. Instead, select only the items you need, or shop around online to find the best deals. The School Start site is another great spot to pick up individually-selected school supplies, and both sites often offer lower prices than the usual in-store hotspots.

Set a back-to-school shopping budget

This works well when you have a child who wants the top-dollar fashion items. Set a budget and leave it up to your child to choose: Do they want one pair of the pricier stylish sneakers or more cost-conscious outfit items? Setting a budget is especially helpful when you’re shopping for multiple kids. Give them each a set amount, and then set out to shop for the items they want most on their wish lists.

Buy in bulk and split the costs

It’s often said that “less is more”, but when it comes to back-to-school shopping, more can be much less. Shopping in bulk usually results in lower per-item costs. Consider ordering larger quantities and then split the costs with a friend, saving you both a bundle in the long-run.

Shop in the off-season

Shop sooner as last-minute shopping can result in important items being sold out. Or if you can, send your child to school with a few must-have items (a pencil and a notebook) and do the bulk of your shopping once the school year has begun. Sometimes teachers will send home school supply lists during the first week of school, and the items needed don’t always match up with last year’s lists, so it can pay to wait.

Stretch out your shopping throughout the school year

Your child doesn’t need a dozen pencils for day one. To cut costs, consider buying a month’s worth of supplies and then topping them up as you move through the school year. This will help cut back on wasted items (and unnecessary added costs).

Shop at second-hand stores

Consider shopping for clothes at thrift or consignment stores. Not only is it better for the environment, but it’s good for your wallet too. If you really want to buy some new clothes for your child, do a closet clean-out, and sell their gently-used clothes online or at a consignment store. The money earned from those sales can go towards some splurge-worthy school kicks.

Invest in good gear

While spending less is the ultimate goal, splurging on supplies that will last may save you money in the long-run. For example, it can be worth it to spend more on a solid backpack that will last several years as it could save you money year-over-year.