Ask the Readers: What is Your Best Back-to-School Shopping Tip?

By Ashley Jacobs on 18 August 2015 46 comments

Editor's Note: Congratulations to Tina in NJ, Betty, and Laura for winning this week's contest!

It's back-to-school season! According to the American Express Spending & Saving Tracker, parents anticipate spending a whopping average of $1,239 on school gear for their kids, up 24% since 2010! That's a lot of money, and a big incentive for finding ways to save on back-to-school shopping.

What is your best back-to-school shopping tip? Which items do you think are necessary purchases, and which items would you advise skipping? If you have kids in school, or you yourself go to school, how much do you plan on spending this back-to-school season?

Tell us your best back-to-school shopping tip and we'll enter you in a drawing to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!

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Guest's picture
Mary

Take advantage of your state's tax-free weekend and shop store sales combined with coupons.

Guest's picture
Guest

Clip coupons! And buy as much as possible during sales later on, I send my kids to school with the bare minimum for the first 2 weeks.

Guest's picture
Gina

Keep an eye on the back to school sales. Instead of shopping all at once shop a little each week with the sales to get the best price.

Guest's picture
Julie Wood

My back to school shopping tip is to Buy a Backpack That’s Built to Last! I bought a cheap one and it did not last. Get a sturdy backpack!

Guest's picture
Elena

My tip is to use coupons and shop sales

Guest's picture
Miss PF

First, look within your own house! There are so many items within your own home that you do not even realize until it gets to being the middle of the school year.

Secondly, if you must purchase items, look at the weekly ads and best deals. Last week, Office Depot had penny folders and $1 pens for a pack of 4! Only go for those great deals!

Guest's picture
Tina in NJ

Don't buy an entire winter wardrobe for your kids in August. Kids grow. One mom I know ended up giving away $100 worth of pants because her son had a growth spurt before it got cold!

Guest's picture
Paul

Many stores have a specific item (such as reams of paper) at massive discounts to draw in customers, usually with a low maximum per customer. Separating shopping carts (and therefore purchases) between children and adults shopping can help you maximize the savings on that loss product, giving you ample supply for the upcoming year.

Guest's picture
Angie

Hit the clearance after school has started to round out this years shopping and/or get a head start on next years list!

Guest's picture
Emily S.

We buy in bulk @ Sam's Club or Costco -- the supplies last all year!

Guest's picture
Ernest S.

Use coupons whenever possible, and if you have a credit card with a rotating or special categories of spend, try to maximize them for your purchases!

Guest's picture
Jeff

shop on tax free shopping days

Guest's picture
Amanda Sakovitz

My tip is to use coupons whenever possible.

Guest's picture
Susan P.

The children may not like it but thirst stores, consignments shops and trading with other families saves money on clothes. Our state has tax free week which helps save a little bit, if you do have to buy new.

Guest's picture
Christina

Watch the sales flyers and make a list for back to school.

Guest's picture
An G

Good quality shoes I would spend a fair amount on and a good backpack. everything else I shop for sales and price check

Guest's picture
Lani Castro

Create back-to-school stockpile by waiting until after school starts and taking advantage of the markdowns. The school supply list for my kids school doesn't change much from year to year so I look ahead and try to buy clearance items that they will need later.

Guest's picture
Guest

Stock up during the tax free weekend and when school supplies are on sale. That way, later on when kids run out of things, you already have replacements

Guest's picture
Suz_Glo

Start collecting good deals in July - kleenex, wipes, paper etc. - from every source you shop: grocery stores, drugstores, dollar stores, Target. And use coupons! I just got free pens/pencils from the grocery store using coupons yesterday.

Guest's picture
Jamie

Buy just the essentials before the school year, then wait to see what their teachers want. Too many times I stocked up and then had to go buy more stuff because certain classes/teachers wanted particular things.

Guest's picture
Kelli

I don't have children nor am I in school anymore myself (thankfully!), so back-to-school shopping isn't an issue for me but, if it were, I would simply stick to the list from the school (if it's reasonable) and not buy a lot of extra clothes. Everyday wear is fine. I had to wear a uniform for my first eight years of school and didn't mind at all!

Guest's picture
Renee

I would say waiting until after the back-to-school rush to stock up on the basics (pens, notebooks, etc.) and for college students, get a list of textbooks from professors ahead of time and buy them used online (also ask if an earlier edition is ok if it is a new edition). This is way cheaper than the college bookstore and if they are still in good condition, you can sell them online if you don't intend to keep them.

Guest's picture
Christie

Resale shops, wait until things go on sale! You don't need everything new at the beginning of the year, just the necessities. You can get the rest after they go on clearance!

Guest's picture
Rebecca B. A. R.

Don't take the little kids with you, you'll just end up spending more in the long run!

Guest's picture
Liz

Get it done early before the stores are crowded.

Guest's picture
Josefina

I never have any back to school shopping! My tip is that at end of summer I am buying off the Clearance rack for NEXT YEAR. I get everything a size up or 2 and save it for next year. I get shirts as low as $1.50 and shorts as low as $2.99 and pants at a low $5. By the time next summer or school year comes; I'm already stocked up and don't have to fight any mommy crowds at the store!

Guest's picture
RICH

I shopped during Florida's Tax Free week - some nice sales and no tax made for good savings.

Guest's picture
Bethany M

Don't buy more than a year supply of glue sticks. They will dry out.

Guest's picture
DL Freedman

This tip is mostly for next year: Shop all year long. Buy "up" a couple of sizes at winter clearance sales (jeans, sweatshirts, et al.), watch for great stuff at rummage/garage sales, look through summer clearance sales (which start as early as late June) and keep an eye out for loss-leader sales at places like Office Depot and Staples.

Also: Remember that if the clothes your kid is wearing still fit and the lunchbox thermos doesn't leak and the backpack straps are still holding up, there is no need to replace things. Don't spend because marketing wizards told you that "back to school shopping" is a thing. Replace what needs replacing and maybe let your kid pick out one special, symbolic thing (a 64-pack of crayons, a notebook with his or her favorite superhero on the cover). Otherwise, keep your money in your pocket.

Guest's picture
Raina

Wait 'til tax-free weekend. You can usually re-use a lot of stuff from the previous school year, or hand-me-downs from an older sibling.

Guest's picture
Betty

Wait until the first week of school before buying everything. Send child with a notebook and pens. Certain teachers ask for specific notebooks/binders, etc. The kids can also wear their summer clothes the first few weeks. And being your kid will want to dress like most of the class, wait to see what the style is. Some years the kids were fashionable, some years just sweatpants!

Guest's picture
MELISSA HANSSON

I try to stock up on all the loss leaders at the office supply stores this time of year. Target has had some great coupons, too.

Guest's picture
Daniella

Use coupons and buy in bulk.

Guest's picture
Susan Smith

I stock up on school supplies throughout the year when they are on sale.

Guest's picture
Bekki

Shop during tax free weekend, I just buy what is on the requested school list, and shop off season as well when there are sales on things that schools ask for.

Guest's picture
Homeschool Mom

When I travel around, I browse thrift stores for zip lock bags full of "Office Supplies", often $1 each. I repack what I'll need in another zip lock bag then donate leftovers to our church thrift store for them to resell. I also hit Dollar Tree stores for great deals on Kids supply. I've gone to Newspaper Places to get their "end of the roll" newsprint paper (free) for crafts, art work etc...

Guest's picture
Guest

Best back to school money saver: scour your home for previously purchased school supplies that didn't get much or any use last year. Look for clothes that weren't used much. Kids grow so fast, sometimes they barely get a chance to wear them.

Guest's picture
Donna D

Use coupons and shop sales

Guest's picture
Michelle D.

I shop sales and combine sales with coupons to get the most bang for my buck!

Guest's picture
CynthiaD

Do your research! Look for the deals and if you could hold off buying some of the supplies for a little while they may be on sale after school starts. Also, making a list and sticking to it so you avoid buying unnecessary items. And finally, look around the house. There may be supplies left over from previous years that you forgot about.

Guest's picture
Liisa R

Inventory, make a careful list, and shop sales!

Guest's picture
Guest

Tax free weekends, and look for items on sale in the months leading up to and after school starting!

Guest's picture
Happy Love

Sales + coupons

Guest's picture
J. Pario

I don't have to do back-to-school shopping, but if I did, I think I'd 1) start early and 2) keep a year-round stash of school supplies somewhere that I could add to as I saw things on sale. Then I could "shop" my own little supply cabinet.

Good luck to all the students out there. Be nice to your teachers--we care about you more than you have any idea!

Guest's picture
Laura J

We normally spend about 200.00 for back to school. We try to watch for sales, and use coupons whenever we can. For Supplies....we start early and pick up an item when we grocery shop each week....that way it doesnt all hit at once!

Guest's picture
Louly

I use coupons + rebate sites + cash back sites like shopathome to get the most for my money!

Guest's picture
Lynda

i don't have kids but my husband is back to school. he shops sales and only gets what's essential.

Guest's picture
Thomas Murphy

Shop early to avoid the crowds.