Saving Money on Back to School Supplies

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Do you want to save money on back-to-school supplies and curriculum? These tips can help you find the best deal!

Do you want to save money on back to school supplies and curriculum? These tips can help find the best deal!

Saving Money on Back-to-School Supplies

It’s that time of year again. All you seem to notice when you head to the store are the huge bins filled with pens, pencils, and notebooks. There seems to be a sale or deal on all those school supplies everywhere, but how do you know the best deal?

Watch for Loss Leaders at the Office Supply Stores

Watch for loss leaders at the office supply stores. These are generally found on the front page of the store’s newspaper ad. If you watch, starting around the end of July through August you can get everything from pens to erasers for as little as free after a rebate or even $0.01 – $0.10 an item.

Most of these loss leader items will have a limit that you can purchase per visit, but they are still worth grabbing if you are in town and near the store.

Don’t Spend the Extra Money on Brand Name Supplies or Character Supplies.

The folder with Elmo on it might be cute, and your little ones might be begging for it, but so is the pink one that you can decorate with stickers that you have lying around in your junk drawers at home.

This would be a great opportunity to get creative with your kids!


Price Match

Can’t make it all the way across town to get the deal you want? Walmart and Target (along with some other stores; ask about their policies before you go) will price match as long as you have the ad and they have the same item.

That means you could take both the Office Max and Office Depot ads to Walmart and get all the deals in one place and in one shopping trip saving you time and gas.

Watch for Coupons

Around back-to-school time, companies like 3M, Bic, etc., will start rolling out high-value coupons. Often, these can be matched up with a great sale to make the items free.

Sign up for the periodic emails from companies that make school and office supplies to make sure to get any coupons they send out, right in your inbox.

Don’t Shop During Back-to-School Shopping Season At All. Shop After

You can do this for next year or stock up on supplies you need throughout the year. Each year I purchase office supplies, I always wait for back-to-school sales to end. Stores clearance out what they have left, and you can get items for rock bottom prices.

Last year, I paid $0.02 per spiral-bound notebook. I bought 30 of them! Think ahead and shop smart; keep bulk school supplies for next year in a plastic storage tote so they stay safe and dry. (I use storage totes for our school supplies.)

Plastic Containers

Set a School Supply Budget

Each month, I have an allotted budget for school supplies. I can save that money for another month or spend it when I get it. It’s important to set a budget when shopping for school supplies because, let’s face it, when you can get items like notebooks, pens, and crayons for so cheap…it’s tempting to buy a lot!

Try and set aside money each month so that you can do all of your shopping at once (and already have the money to do it instead of dipping into another fund), or use that budget like I do throughout the year when you find deals. Either way, stick to a budget! Here’s how we put together our budget on an irregular income.

Check Dollar Stores

I love the local dollar stores! Most of the time, when I plan a trip there, I can find many things that we can use for school (particularly themed items for our preschool theme weeks or our sensory trays), and they cost just $1 per item. (For inspiration, check out my post on $1 Toddler Busy Bags.)

Use the Library or Have a Book Swap

If you need several books for school this year, check your local library first. If you can’t find what you need there, have a book swap! Share books with friends or other homeschool families instead of purchasing what you need.

If you are a homeschooler and use a similar curriculum as a friend, they may already have the books that you need and be happy to let you borrow them! You can also check out Thrift Books. We’ve found many of our school books there for less than $4 each, and you can get 15% off your first order when you go through this link.


So watch for sales, shop smart, share, and price match to save time and gas. Most of all, have FUN back-to-school shopping! If you’ve got a budget and a list of what you need, there’s no reason for back-to-school shopping to cause stress. Enjoy this time in your little one’s (or not so little one’s) life and use it to get them excited about learning through the upcoming school year.

Now that you’ve found the best deal on your school supplies, how do you store them all? You may enjoy this post on how we keep it all together. It’s got some great Free Printable Weekly Planning Templates!

10 Minute Meals Promo

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What are your best tips for buying school supplies?

Me and KadyMerissa has been blogging about and living the simple life since 2009 and has internationally published 2 books on the topic. You can read about Merissa’s journey from penniless to now on the About Page. You can send her a message any time from the Contact Page.


This post on How to Save Money on Back to School Supplies was originally posted on Little House Living in August 2011. It has been updated as of September 2023.

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  1. Do you know when stores typically start discounting their back to school supplies? Is it sometime in September?

  2. I am addicted to buying school/office supplies! My kids hardly even use a fraction of what I buy each year, but I do it every fall… ;o)

  3. And if you don’t like spending your hard earned money at Walmart you can take the Walmart ad to OfficeMax and Office Depot and they will price match as well.

  4. As a retired teacher and mother to two grown daughters, I have had extensive experience purchasing school supplies. All of the above are great ways to save money. For some items, it is best to purchase name brand (crayola crayons, name brand markers that won’t instantly dry out, etc.). For paper, the cheaper the better. Teachers often ask that each child bring a ream of copy paper. Be careful to shop those back to school sales at the office supply stores (held in July and August). You might pay less than $1.00 for a ream of paper as a loss leader, or pay $5 or more at an office supply, discount store, drugstore, grocery, etc. Finally, do not give your child all of his/her supplies at once. I have often watched children (these were 5th graders) use multiple packages of notebook paper, a whole year’s supply or more, by December. They are not using it for work, but for pictures, notes, drawing, paper airplanes, etc. If you send them to school with an entire year’s worth of supplies, they will be gone, for one reason or another, within a couple of months. In one situation (a low income school where some children brought in supplies, and some did not), we labeled everything with their names and distributed as needed. For those who did not bring supplies, I bought theirs using the methods described above. For paper, which tends to grow legs and wings to walk and fly away with, I collected all paper and passed it out as needed, if a student wanted or needed more for a good reason, they got it. I always purchased extra paper, pencils, folders, and other basic supplies before the year started. When parents and I controlled the supplies, the students had enough, even extra, for the entire year without having to purchase additional in January!

  5. Just wondering if you would share which stores you have found the best clearance prices and selection still left over. I am afraid if I wait then there won’t be what is on my child’s school list left. Also wondering if there is a place you have found with great deals on backpacks. My kids sure seem to be rough on them and would like to find them a little cheaper if possible, or if there is a special brand that you know holds up well I am willing to spend a little more if it means the quality is better than the typical ones we buy at Walmart or target.

    1. I also forgot to share that I discovered Bookbub for those of you that haven’t heard of it yet. It allows you to select different genres of books and they send you emails with free or extremely cheap books for your kindle or nook. I loaded several the other day for my kids.