10 Back to School Shopping Hack to Save Money

Back-to-school shopping is expected to reach a new high, up to $34.4 billion for K-12 students, or approximately $661 per student; back-to-college shoppers are expected to spend $28.3 billion, or approximately $1,600 per student.

More than half (57%) of back-to-school shoppers surveyed are concerned about inflation, though many remain determined to purchase needed supplies, possibly driving spending per student up by as much as rising 8 to $661. The figure represents a 27% rise from pre-pandemic levels.

While you may need to spend that much or more to buy special supplies or stock up for multiple kids, it’s possible to reduce your back-to-school budget with a few tricks.

Consider these strategies before you hit the store this year.

1. Reuse and Recycle

One of the best ways to save money is to avoid spending in the first place. Consider whether your child needs a new backpack, lunchbox, or any other school supply that could have a longer shelf life.

If you can use expensive items longer and avoid replacing them every year, you will save money, even if your kids want new stuff.

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2.  Go Shopping With a Plan

Set a budget for back-to-school shopping before you go to stores, then figure out how much you can spend for various items on the list. Having a clear list can help you avoid impulse purchases that can push you over your budget.

Do a quick inventory at home to make sure you’re not re-upping on things like pens and pencils when you already have a decent supply.

RELATED: 5 Best Ways to Save Money on Back to School Clothes

3. Shop Sales

Check sales flyers before you shop for supplies and if you don’t have a physical newspaper to check for ads, you can check online. Retailers like Walmart, Target, Office Max/Depot, and so much more are the places to get your children’s back-to-school merchandise. 

Avoid waiting until the last minute to shop the sales. The best deals always go quickly, and if you wait too long, you might not find what you need. So, be sure to keep an eye out for sales and plan your shopping accordingly.

4. Shop Tax-Free

At least sixteen states offer some form of a sales tax holiday, commonly known as a “tax-free weekend.” Considering that sales tax can reach up to 10.75% in some states. A “tax-free weekend” or sales tax holiday means that you can buy items from certain qualifying categories like clothing, shoes, computers, and school supplies without paying sales tax. States that participate set their own limits on how much you can spend without paying a penny in sales tax.

5.  Shop At Dollar Stores

You can also pop into a dollar store. Dollar Tree and Family Dollar should be your go-to stores when there aren’t back-to-school sales on items you need. Shop for expensive supplies like calculators, planners, or clipboards at dollar stores to cut costs. You can also find tape, pens, notebooks and dry erase markers for cheap.

6. Stock Supplies After School Opens

Don’t feel pressured to get every single item on your child’s supply list before the first day of school. Once school is in session, retailers mark school supplies at clearance prices to free up room for new seasonal inventory. For that reason, waiting until mid-to-late September to stock up on supplies. 

7. Buy Quantities You Can Split Between Kids

If you have more than one child with a similar list of supplies, you can save money by buying larger quantities of certain supplies and divvying them up. For example, a three-pack of Elmer’s Glue Sticks at Walmart.com is $3.82, but a 30-pack is only $9.88. You can find similar bulk deals for other supplies such as markers, pens, and pencils.

9. Download a Money-Saving App

Apps can help you save even more. Ibotta, for example, offers cash back on specific products at a wide range of stores. To qualify, shop at participating stores, then take a picture of your receipt through the app.

Another app to consider is the Dosh app. This app lets you earn cashback by linking your credit and debit cards to your account and using them to shop. Participating stores include many that sell school supplies including Walmart and Target.

10. Shop Used

You can buy many back-to-school items used, including essentials like backpacks and sports equipment and also items like clothing and tennis shoes. There are all kinds of places to purchase used items online, including Craigslist and Facebook. Your kids may not know the difference, but your wallet will.

Final Word

Back-to-school shopping can be pretty expensive, but you can save money by staying within your budget only buying what your kids need and  looking for the best price, and buying secondhand when possible.

You can also try selling the clothes that no longer fit your kids and use the proceeds to boost your back-to-school budget. As long as the clothing is in good shape, you can make some money by selling on consignment or online secondhand retailers like ThredUp and Poshmark.

What are some of the money-saving hacks you use for back-to-school shopping?