20 Smart & Proven Tips for Saving the Most Money on School Supplies
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Communities in Schools’ most recent “Backpack Index” revealed that the average cost of school supplies was almost $1,000 per student last year. That’s an alarming figure, considering that many families are sending more than one child back to school. To make matters worse, that number doesn’t even include the cost of new shoes or clothing!
Thankfully, it’s still possible to save a lot of money on school supplies. With a little planning and preparation, you can get some really great deals. We’re here to help, and we’re getting you started EARLY this year with 20 of our very best tips for saving money on school supplies!
1. Take inventory of what you already have.
Keep all school supplies in a central location so they’re easy to find when it’s time to start loading backpacks. You may be surprised at how many items you don’t need to pay for this year because you stocked up last year!
2. Coordinate a supply swap.
Too many glue sticks? Rather than letting them dry out, ask other parents if they’d like to participate in a supply swap. You may be able to trade your overstock for supplies you still need.
3. Start your shopping early…
The best back-to-school sales happen long before the first day of school. Even if you don’t get student supply lists early in the summer, keep your eyes peeled for those items you know will be on every student’s list (like number 2 pencils)!
4. … And shop after the first day of school.
As soon as school starts in your area, school supplies start going on clearance. This is the time to grab any final school needs, plus start next year’s back-to-school shopping. Speaking of which…
5. Buy only what your child needs for the first day or two of school.
Then grab the rest of the items your student needs after they go on clearance. If you’re unsure about which items are essential for the first day, reach out to your child’s teacher (or the school office, if you don’t have the teacher’s contact information yet).
Hip Tip: Instead of buying expensive calculators your student may never need again, ask your school if they rent or loan them to students.
6. Download Hip2Save’s School Supply Price Point list.
Know a good stock-up price point when you see it! Keep a copy of our School Supply Price Point list for quick reference all year long.
7. Shop on a tax-free holiday (in participating states).
Check our complete list to see if your state participates, and plan your back-to-school shopping for those days!
8. Use coupons.
Watch our coupon database throughout the year. You’ll notice a surge in brands such as Bic, Kleenex, Post-It, Clorox, etc. that can often be used on items from your child needs for school. When paired with a sale, a store coupon, or used at a dollar store, you might even be able to score some of those products for free!
Hip Tip: Be sure to check this link often for all the new printable coupons available!
9. Follow your favorite stores on social media.
Level up your couponing game by following your favorite back-to-school shopping spots on Facebook or Twitter. Businesses often reward their loyal followers with exclusive coupons, and you’ll be the first to get the inside scoop on any upcoming in-store events or sales.
10. Shop early in the week.
School supplies sell out quickly when they reach their stock-up prices, and many stores don’t restock these items because they’re considered “seasonal.” Weekly sales start on Sunday mornings, so take a quick peek at the ads from the Sunday paper and get out to the stores as soon as you can.
11. Focus on big-ticket items (like laptops).
Don’t waste your limited time and energy agonizing over a three-cent price difference between similar items. If you’re pressed for time, focus your efforts on the most expensive items (probably laptops and other electronics). This is where you have the potential to save the most money!
12. Try craft stores for art supplies.
Craft stores like Hobby Lobby, Jo-Ann Fabrics, and Michael’s may not seem like the obvious choice for finding deals on school supplies, but these stores regularly stock items like crayons, markers, glue, paint, paper, and other supplies that are sure to be on your child’s list. With weekly offers like 25% off your entire purchase or 40% off one regular-priced item, you may be able to score some great deals!
13. Comparison shop with the Amazon app.
Use the Amazon app (iTunes or Google Play) while shopping at brick and mortar stores to check for the best prices. If you do find a better price, you can order it from your phone right there on the spot!
14. Request price-matching at select stores.
Stores like Target, Walmart, Staples, and Office Depot/Office Max are popular school supply retailers that honor competitors’ prices. Check each store’s individual policies for restrictions, exclusions, and limitations, and save!
Hip Tip: Staples has the best price matching policy since they offer a 110% Price Match Guarantee on almost everything, including school supplies! That means you can price match all of the great deals on school supplies that Office Depot/Office Max and Walmart are offering AND save even more!
15. Join the Office Depot/OfficeMax Rewards Program.
In addition to price-matching, Office Depot/OfficeMax has one of the best rewards programs in the back-to-school business. It’s free to join, and members receive rewards for making purchases, posting product reviews, and recycling ink/toner cartridges.
Best of all, they offer Members Only Savings each week, where you can find products with offers for 100% back in rewards! Members can get items like highlighters, Sharpies, name-brand batteries, flashlights, copy paper, and even electronics for free after rewards!
16. Pay with discounted gift cards.
Whether it’s back-to-school or Black Friday, get into the habit of checking Raise.com for discounted gift cards before your next shopping trip. You can save a significant amount of money on school supplies by purchasing them with gift cards you bought for less than face value.
17. Use cash back apps.
Rebate apps like Ibotta reward you with cash back after qualifying purchases, and they make it super simple! Just buy your school supplies, then upload a photo of your receipt after each qualifying purchase. It’s so much more fun than the old mail-it-in-and-wait-by-the-mailbox rebate method! 😉
18. Download Target‘s Cartwheel app.
Use it to scan your items as you add them to your cart, and the app will add any applicable offers to your wallet. Scan your barcode at checkout to receive your discounts – easy peasy!
19. Check out Dollar Tree.
Dollar Tree is still one of our favorite spots for finding back-to-school bargains! Here, you can find quite a few items to cross off your list for only a dollar. Look for school supplies that would typically be more expensive elsewhere, such as calculators, planners, clipboards, white out, disinfectant wipes, erasers and hand sanitizer.
20. Follow Hip2Save for all the best back-to-school deals.
The easiest way to save money on your back-school shopping is to stick with us all summer! We’ll bring you all of the best deals on school supplies as they happen. To be the first to know, you can bookmark our back-to-school deals, download the app, and sign up for HOT text alerts.