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10 Best Back-to-School Shopping Hacks

10 Best Back-to-School Shopping Hacks

“Education is the passport to the future for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”

Malcolm X


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According to the National Retail Federation, the average family planned to spend $848.90 on back-to-school supplies in 2021—way up from 2020 estimates.

You don’t have to spend a small fortune to get your kids outfitted for school this year—especially if you’ve already got some back-to-school supplies sitting around the house. (Hello, colored pencils from your adult coloring book phase.)

Try these back-to-school shopping hacks to keep your spending under control.

1. Reuse and Recycle


Unless your kids are extremely rough on their school supplies, there are probably things you can salvage from last year’s set. Their backpack and lunchbox may just need a good wash, and there are probably binders, pens, and pencils that can be put back into rotation. You may even been able to pull unused pages out of spiral notebooks to be used as loose-leaf paper the following year. 

Invest in Gear That's Built to Last

2. Invest in Gear That’s Built to Last


Sometimes, you really do get what you paid for. Investing a little more upfront on a really good quality backpack can save you from having to buy a new one every single year. They cost more to begin with, but make up for it when you don’t have to buy a new one every couple of years.

Fun savings hack: If your kid’s into characters, you can always buy inexpensive stickers, patches, or keychains to adorn a simpler backpack—they can be swapped out as their tastes change.


3. Shop Online for Back-to-School Clothes


Not only do you avoid those “gotta have this” bonus purchases, but with a little hunting, you can save a fortune with coupon codes. Theres also sites like Rakuten which give you cash back on purchases from a wide range of stores including  Old Navy, Children’s Place, and Target.



4. Minimize Your Clothes Shopping Now


Your kids aren’t going to be pulling on that cute sweatshirt any time soon—odds are you have at least a month of summery weather where your kids can use their favorite shorts and tees. Putting off clothes shopping means you don’t have to worry about if a growth spurt over that month turns those new jeans into capris while they’re still wearing their summer shorts. Plus, those back-to-school clothes will be on sale to make room for holiday stuff!



5. Focus Your Time and Effort on Big-Ticket Items

Running to five different stores to save 50 cents on notebooks or crayons isn’t a good use of your time or energy. Focus on saving cash on bigger-ticket supplies (lunch boxes, calculators, computers, and clothing) to get a bigger savings bang for your buck.


Focus Your Time and Effort on Big-Ticket Items
Compare Your Shopping List to the Sales Fliers

6. Compare Your Shopping List to the Sales Fliers


Keep a calculator handy and tally up what you still need supply-wise, based on the store sales fliers. Do your supply shopping at a max of two spots to minimize the hassle of running all over town. 



7. Skip the Disposables


Plastic baggies for school lunches are only cheap to start—but you have to keep replenishing them. (And don’t forget what all those baggies do to the environment!) Spring for reusable lunch containers for sandwiches and snacks to help save the planet (and your pocketbook). 

And you can even do that with notebooks too. Give your teen a Rocketbook notebook, where they can take notes, use the app to upload them to Google Drive or another file-saving service, then wipe clean with a damp microfiber cloth and reuse it. (Bonus: Never worry about lost notes again!)



Skip the Disposables
Buy Plain and DIY

8. Buy Plain and DIY

You’ll pay more for the jazzier school supplies. I like to get plain white binders or simple folders, and let my kids get creative with creating collages to dress them up. (That makes it easier for them to spot theirs in a sea of school supplies.)


9. Save on Extracurricular Gear


There are a lot of bargains this time of year on glue sticks—but not always on lacrosse sticks. (And let’s face it: Those extracurricular costs can really add up!)

Look for used equipment on places like Facebook Marketplace, Play It Again Sports, eBay, or Craigslist. Odds are you’ll find some very gently used items for a significant discount. 

Let Your Kids Cover Their Own Wish Lists

10. Let Your Kids Cover Their Own Wish Lists


You can always cover all of the basics, but let your kids learn the value of money. Either by setting aside a small budget they can spend for fun items or school supply upgrades. Or you could let your kids buy them themselves with their allowance, birthday money, or other savings.



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