10 Ways to Save on School Supplies
The list of required school supplies varies by grade and school, but there are staples that nearly every child needs. With a few sharp tactics, shopping for school supplies can be less of a financial strain especially for those parents raising a child on a budget. Here are 10 ways to save during this upcoming back-to-school season.
We compared prices on five basic classroom supplies -- pencils, loose-leaf paper, glue sticks, crayons, and three-ring binders -- at Costco, Walmart, Target, and Amazon. Costco and Walmart were competitive, with each leading on two of the five items. While Amazon had the best price on glue sticks (a pack of six Avery sticks for $2), Target led in none of the categories. It means parents might have to shop around, maybe going to Costco for Dixon Ticonderoga HB #2 pencils, which sell in 96-packs for $15.39, and Crayola crayon, which sell in 12-packs for $9, but to Walmart for a dozen 1-inch Office Impressions binders for $18.60 and 500 sheets of loose-leaf paper for $2.50. Maybe nearly 100 pencils or a dozen binders sounds like overkill, but these bulk buys can be split among everyone in the family, or with a neighbor or friend.
August is the most popular month for buying school supplies but isn't always the best. Although big-ticket items such as laptops tend to be at their lowest prices, a lot of school supplies go on clearance in September as demand tapers off. Moreover, coupons often trickle out over several weeks, so penny-pinching parents may want to wait to fulfill each item on the list until the relevant coupon appears (and combine coupons with store sales to save even more). On the other hand, when ordering school supplies online, don't wait until the last minute. Expedited shipping fees can wipe out any savings.
A child may want a new backpack or lunchbox, but if last year's are still in good condition, there's no need for replacements. When buying items that can be used year to year, consider making a deal at the start of school that these items are going to be used for the next two school years -- at least. The same can apply for pencil boxes, binders, and coats (if they still fit). Limiting the purchase of brand-name or endorsed items can also help teach children the value of money while improving the bottom line.
Some schools offer supply kits that are already stocked with the necessary items. Not only are they typically no more expensive than buying all the items separately, they save lots of time and energy. The kit shows up at the doorstep in advance or in the child's classroom on the first day of school.