Back to School: School Supplies for Less

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It doesn’t take much for those back-to-school shopping trips to really add up. In 2013, the National Retail Federation estimated that families with K–12 kids spent an average of $634 when stocking up their families for the trip back to school. While you can’t ignore the teacher’s supply list, you can make smarter purchases. Here’s how:

Make a List—and Stick to It

Upromise by Sallie Mae recommends, “Stick to the teacher’s recommended list. Most of the time, additional trendy add-ons only get used once or twice and cost you more money in the end.”

If you find an item on the list that seems unnecessary, you might even want to talk to your child’s teacher directly to see if it’s necessary.

Shop at Dollar Stores

Catherine from SnagItFree.com recommends looking at your local dollar stores for deals. “There are so many dollar stores in each city that mothers can take advantage of. They can stock up on school supplies for their children for way less than what they can buy at big name stores. The great part is that some school supplies actually come in sets for only a dollar.”

Schedule for Savings

The Upromise team also recommends being strategic about your shopping sprees. “Do your research to see when stores are offering the best sales — and mark your calendar! Plus, take advantage of free shipping for those items you buy online.”

Swap Outside the Family

If you’re looking for gently used supplies and clothes, take a look next door. “Host a back-to-school swap with your friends and neighbors,” Upromise suggests. “When you have a wide range of ages, you can accomplish most of your shopping without spending a dime.”

Avoid Trendy Gadgets

Colorful pens, expensive markers and mechanical pencils can all add up to extra dollars. Avoid them. Dawn Wickwire from TheGroceryGame.com explains, “Kids in elementary school love to fill their backpacks with expensive gadgets, like mechanical pencils. Within a few weeks or even days, those mechanical pencils are no more. Little ones just can’t seem to manage those fragile little lead sticks, which break or get lost. A cheap package of regular pencils, and using the sharpener in the room, will get you through the school year at a fraction of the cost.”

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