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20 Smart & Proven Tips for Saving the Most Money on School Supplies

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girl holding Crayola school supplies

Brace yourself.

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.

School supplies in a pile, including glue, pencils, composition notebooks, and crayons

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.

Back to school shop signage at Target

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.

School Supply Price Points list next to a colored pencil cup

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.

collin holding up a stack of 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.

Hip Tip: We post the weekly deals and coupon matchups for popular stores on Saturday, so if you bookmark our site or download our FREE app you’ll stay one step ahead of the crowd!

11. Focus on big-ticket items (like laptops).

kids smiling and playing on a laptop

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 LobbyJo-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.

Staples storefront

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 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.

$10 bill, receipt, and phone showing the Ibotta app

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.

If you don’t already have the Cartwheel app on your phone, download it now! It’s an essential tool for back-to-school shopping at Target, and you’ll wonder how you ever survived without it!

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.

big eraser at 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.

Get all the latest back-to-school deals right here!
Join The Discussion

Comments 21

  1. Melissaan

    I don’t believe that $1000 per student figure. Unless that includes a laptop or iPad every year as well as expensive graphic calculators. Buying supplies at back to school sales definitely saves money. But even paying regular prices during the school year one would have to buy a mountain of pencils, markers, crayons, folders, binders, and notebooks to fork over $1000.

    • Nancy

      Yep sounds more like college students. I dont even think for high schoolers it’s that much

    • Rae

      I agree.

    • MommySpendsLess

      That seemed high to me too unless they’re including a new name brand backpack (like LLBean/Pottery Barn/Jansport) and a new name brand wardrobe and shoes. Even then $1000 seems a bit high for the average family…

    • Stacey

      I think $1000 is still high, but I’m sure they are calculating backpacks, shoes, and clothes and maybe even new toiletries including makeup and hair accessories, ect.

    • Sarah

      Agree! $1000 is ridiculous! I usually spend $150 for school supplies for my two kids and Maybe buy another set of pencil or markers on the middle of the school year but other than that I don’t think you have to buy another school supplies coz the one they bring to school is good for the whole school year. Graphing Calculator $140 bought once and still using it. I buy branded back packs after school started and when everything put on clearance. Lol!

  2. je

    I did tip #1 and looked at what my kids still needed for next school year. They ended up only needing some pens, dry erase markers, and tissues. Used my Staples coupon over the weekend and got my back-to-school shopping done for less that $10. One tip I have for Staples…. don’t just look at the back-to-school supplies that they put out. My daughters ended up going to the actual pen aisle just to look around and found a pack of 16 Staples brand dry erase markers for $1.90 vs. the Staples brand 4-pack for $4 that was sitting out with all the school supplies.

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Oh great! I have found that we don’t need a lot this year either! Thanks a bunch for the helpful tip, Je!

  3. Kim

    I always donate my extra supplies to the classrooms, they need it more than I do ☺️

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      How sweet! I love that idea, Kim!

  4. Lisa

    I popped into Office Depot in mid June when Hip2Save mentioned some deals and all the school supplies were quite cheap, loose leaf paper .41! Etc. I paid $17 for everything I needed for my 4th grader. I don’t know if the packaging is changing or why they were blowing out the items so cheap but I sure appreciate it!!

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Yay! That’s great to hear, Lisa! I love getting a head start on school supplies!

  5. Jes

    Do some place provide supply list early? Our schools do give you a list of supplies until open house, which is about a week before school starts. How do you stock up so early?

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Hi Jes! For my kids, we can usually grab them online. Hope that helps!

    • Sara

      My local Walmart stores often have teacher-specific supply lists on a rack just inside the door closest to the seasonal display shelves at the front of the store. The racks start appearing in mid-July.

    • Tonya

      We frequently get a list at the end of the school year for the next year. Very nice to know in advance!

  6. Snowflake1211

    Also check out facebook market place. I sell school supplies (and other things). For me, it’s brand new, name brand with tags on for 50% off retail. There are lots of people out there like me who want to make a little extra money and help you save a ton! Look for local sellers in your area before you head to the stores (but check out their rating first, you don’t want to be ripped off!).

  7. Trish

    I’m a teacher and a mom. $1000 is ridiculous, as is all new stuff every year. A new backpack, lunchbox etc every year is also rather silly. I’m not teaching my kids those wasteful behaviors. Needs over wants will always save a lot. I also don’t buy the vast quantities of all the things on the list. Last year my first grader had 4 boxes of crayons and 4 bottles of glue. I sent 2 of each and they all came home at the end of the year. I was thankful that he must have been learning more than coloring and cutting and glueing.

    • Meg

      Momma who buys 4 kids school supplies here. Pro tip: Walmart’s online grocery system totally lets you order school supplies. When bought on tax free weekend, prices are usually in line with other sales.

      Coordinating 4 lists that are not alphabetical is really mind numbing so being able to pick up a list at a time and add items digitally is great.

      Also note: if colors are a big deal on an item, they will swap them out but I recommend walking in and grabbing that one. You can buy color specific folders and composition books though!!!

  8. Kathy Kennedy

    As a retired teacher, schools DO NOT have calculators to ‘rent’. They are too busy trying to keep the lights on. Most calculators are bought from the teachers pocket. Also, when lockers are cleaned out at the end of the year, MANY students leave those lockers full. Volunteer to help the administration to clean out lockers. Teachers will keep anything found, including expensive calculators, for next year’s class. Teach your kids not to WASTE ANYTHING!

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Thanks for the feedback! I’m wondering if that may vary by school as my daughter’s middle school does loan out calculators and even Chrome Books. Hope that helps!

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