17 Tips on How to Find Cheap School Supplies
When I saw my first “school supply” list I was in awe. I did not realize I would need to run all over town shopping sales to buy these 20 items the teacher requested.
The following year, I had two kids in school and the list and spending grew!
I realized, just like everything else in my life, I was not going to pay full price for this super list of school supplies.
Boy, times have changed! When I was a kid, I absolutely LOVED back to school time! I’ve always been a bit of an office supply geek! – I once got mad at my hubby for using my new large post-it notes for his daily “To Do” list! Haha! But I don’t remember teachers sending home lists of supplies we needed except for higher grades. The schools provided all the learning tools we needed and we were left to pick out a cool trapper keeper and some paper…Maybe a few pencils.
But picking out all of that paper mania was SO much fun and still IS if you know how to shop.
Truth be told, many schools are in dire need of supplies. I know this first hand because I was a teacher for 13 years before starting this blog. Maybe it was the age group – I taught middle school for 10 years – but my kids didn’t seem to have the basic supplies and often came to class without a writing utensil. (This is probably no surprise to any parents of middle school students.) Many kids were left to fend for the “borrow cup” on my desk, a swirled mess of cropped sticks – some with just barely enough lead to make a scratch.
I demanded collateral for each and every one of those pencils. Why? Because I knew I wasn’t getting another set until the second semester and if I ran out, I would be spending my own money to buy more! (Bless you ALL teachers that spend their hard-earned money to promote learning. I Love ya’!)
Unfortunately, when I sent home a supply list, most of the time I never saw a single item brought in except for the rare box of kleenex.
Therefore, when my kids started school I wanted to make sure they had everything they needed for the best learning experience possible. But spending a fortune was not an option, so this momma found some ways to find cheap school supplies and save on back to school!
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Here are my 17 Tips on How to Find Cheap School Supplies:
Do you have supplies from last year? Break them out. There is no need to buy a new backpack or lunch box if your child still has one that is still in good shape from last year. However, I do understand kids do not always take care of things like grown-ups which may leave you with a raggedy backpack or torn up lunchbox. If this is the case, make sure you buy a backpack that is quality and will last. Have a talk with your child about taking care of his or her things.
2. Buy Used
Another option is to buy used items. I search Facebook Market Place, Facebook Mom-to-Mom Groups, and local garage sales for supplies. You can find great deals on backpacks, lunch boxes, fall jackets, and school clothing. I found my sons the most adorable Captain American hooded fleece sweatshirts on a Mom-to-Mom site last Spring for $4 a piece. They were big so they were able to wear them as jackets for the Spring and Fall of the next year. One still fits my youngest son, so he will be wearing it again this year. SCORE!
3. Follow the Flyers
This is a trick the stores use to get you in the door, but many stores have fabulous sales on educational supplies this time of year. When I was a teacher I always watched for Staples $.10 notebooks, because as I stated above, many of my students would not bring supplies and I would allow them to buy the notebooks for $.10 from me or just give them one if they were in need. Stores I have often found great deals on school supplies include Target, Walmart (bought different types of paper here at a discount such as watercolor and finger paint paper for my son’s preschool), CVS, Rite Aid, Staples, Walgreens, Michaels, and Marshalls (bought two light up backpacks for $10 each).
4. Michaels Coupons
If I start early enough, I can buy a few things at Micheals. They often have a 50% off one item coupon in their weekly flyer. I will use this on one of the higher priced items such as watercolor paper, glue stick packs, markers, or notebooks. If you have a Micheals close by, you can go back a few times with this coupon and save.
5. Buy Bulk School Supplies & Split
Have a friend or neighbor with school-aged kids? Get together and order bulk school supplies. You can each add up a total so it is even and then place your orders in bulk from Amazon or other stores. Then split the supplies and split the cost. If one of you has an Amazon Prime membership, you can get free shipping, but if you order all of your bulk school supplies together you can still get free shipping on orders over $35 at Amazon(for most products), Target, and Walmart.
6. Staples Notebooks
As mentioned above, be on the lookout for Staples $.10 notebook sale. They usually allow you to buy 10 per person, so bring your hubby and each buy 10. You can save them for next year or keep a supply for January when most kids start running out of supplies.
The dollar store is a hidden gem for school supplies. My favorite is Dollar Tree because they carry name-brand items. I just bought a student planner for myself. It has the square calendar and one I can write my “To Do” list on. Forget spending $20-$30 on a planner, when I can buy it at the dollar store! I have found some items such as off-brand pencils are not as good from the dollar store, so beware. The lead breaks and the easer doesn’t work well, which can frustrate a child.
8. Store Brand
Consider buying the store-brand school supplies. I swear by the Up & Up brand washable markers, paper, and pencils from Target. They are good quality and cost less. If you can save a few dollars here and there it starts to add up.
If you enjoy shopping online and prefer not to take two or three kids to the store with your – YIKES! Then shopping online is a good way to save by using price comparison apps and coupon apps such as Retailmenot.com.
Need more Cheap School Supplies? Keep reading…
Do you use Ebates? If not, you need to! This is a site that gives you cash back for shopping online. It will help ease the burden of spending your hard earned money on school supplies. Ebates offers anywhere from one to above 10% off their thousands of selected stores. How does this work? Sign up for Ebates and find your store on the website. Click through Ebates to your store and order your stuff. You will get an email in a day or so telling you how much you earned back. After hitting the $5 threshold, you will receive a big fat check! It’s as easy as 2 +2 =4!! Earn a $10 bonus if you sign up for Ebates through my link and make your first purchase.
This is another app I love and trust. Ibotta is a rebate app that gives you cash back for things you already buys. Many times Ibotta will hang tight with the seasonal trends which means offering you cash back for items such as school supplies or Halloween candy, etc.
How does Ibotta work? Head out to the store (although they are starting to include online shopping too) and buy your school supplies and snacks. Click on your store and search for items you bought or plan on buying. Upload your receipt and Ibotta does the rest.
Usually, within seconds, I see my rebate in my balance. I also get an email telling me how much I earned. I love Ibotta because they offer seasonal bonuses such as buy 5 school supply items, earn an extra $2. You can cash out through PayPal or get a gift card, but you must meet the $20 threshold. Sign up for Ibotta and use the app through my link and you will be halfway there because you will be rewarded with $10 after your first rebate is redeemed!!
12. Google Express
This is something new I recently discovered. When I was searching for the large pieces of red construction paper my son’s teacher wanted, Google pulled up the best price for me, which was on Walmart. It will show you the best price and tell you how much more you need to spend to get free shipping. Give it a try and see if you can find the best deals using Google Express.
Do you have a neighbor or cousin that no longer needs a lunchbox or backpack? Family members are usually a good source of free school supplies. Just ask if they have anything they are thinking of getting rid of. You may just hit the school supply lottery.
14. FB groups
As mentioned above, I LOVE Facebook Mom-to-Mom groups for buying and selling. I sell my old supplies and toys and use the money to buy things we need such as school supplies and clothing. Check your local Mom-to-Mom Groups and Facebook Market Place to score some amazing deals!
Groupon is always a favorite place to check sales. At times, they have packages of clothing at a discount or will give you a percent off if you shop through them. Search Groupon Goods for school supplies and school clothing. I bought a $20 gift card for $10 for Khol’s and will use it on supplies and clothes for my six-year-old. I also used a 10% off coupon code. So I paid $9 for a $20 gift card. That’s over 50% off!!
16. Leave the Kids at Home
When I take my kids shopping with me, I spend more period. Every. Single. Time. Leave the kids at home. It will be easier for you to price compare. Keep in mind, I have younger kids. If you are trying to teach your nine or ten-year-old to be a savvy shopper like momma, then, by all means, take him or her with you and show them the ropes.
17. Stock up in Late September
Stock up after the rush for next year on must-haves like crayons, glue sticks, Kleenex, hand sanitizer, markers, folders (If by chance your child doesn’t need an item next year consider donating to a child in need). However, my child’s school makes this easy as they have the school supply list printed by grade and it is basically the same from year to year.
17 Tips on How to Find Cheap School Supplies Conclusion:
School supplies are essential. All the gluing, coloring, writing, and organizing are good for your child’s growth and development. Yet, you can rest easy knowing they are getting the best education possible without taking out a second Mortgage in the process.
Use my 17 Tips to find cheap school supplies and keep more money in your pocket this year.
Wishing you and your family a safe, happy school year filled with growth, friends, and learning!
What are your favorite ways to find cheap school supplies? Leave me a comment. I would love to hear from you.
Take care – Sarah