6 Incredible Back To School Savings Ideas For Parents

by Hank Coleman

Incredible Back To School Savings Ideas For ParentsFor many kids, back to school shopping is way more exciting than school itself. But, for the parents paying for cartloads of new school supplies, back to school shopping is a delicate and anxious balance between staying within budget and appeasing your kids’ desires to acquire the latest and greatest stuff to show off to their classmates. But, there are many ways to find back to school savings to help you stay on track with your budget.

School supplies aren’t exactly cheap, after all: the National Retail Federation’s “Top Trends for 2016 Back-to-School and College Shopping” report published this summer found that parents with K-12 kids in the U.S. were spending an average of $673.57 on clothing, shoes, and school supplies in 2016, which is a $43 increase over the 2015 average figure.

6 Useful Back To School Savings Ideas

If your children are starting school soon and you’re looking for ways to save money on school supplies in the meantime, then don’t miss these useful back to school savings ideas.

Set Firm Limits

Kids want to jump in on all the latest trends, whether it’s Pokémon GO, Kylie Jenner’s new cosmetic line, or even smart watches. But buying a bunch of branded school supplies and cool but unnecessary gadgets (does your 4th grader really need a $90 calculator?) can really put a dent in your back to school budget.

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Rather than caving into their pleas for a bunch of Pokémon binders, pencils, and backpacks, set a limit of one or two fun items and buy cheaper, generic school supplies for whatever else is on your shopping list. Back to school shopping should be a fun experience to get the kids pumped up for the new academic year.

But, setting firm budgetary limits and buying only what’s on your shopping list will help you save money by avoiding impulse purchases.

According to RetailMeNot, parents plan to spend an average of $273 on their children’s return to school this fall. That’s $27 more than parents anticipated spending last year.

According to RetailMeNot, parents plan to spend an average of $273 on back to school supplies in 2016.Click To Tweet

Find End-of-Summer Sales

If you live in an area that’ll stay warm for another couple weeks or months, then don’t miss the clearance racks at Target, Gap Kids, Macy’s and Old Navy for their end-of-summer sales on clothing. You’ll find everything from shorts and sandals to t-shirts and tank tops heavily discounted so these stores can make more room for their cold weather collections.

But, if winter isn’t coming just yet, then take advantage of the opportunity to score some great deals on summery clothing for your kids’ first couple months back at school.

Bring Coupons

Coupon clipping is mostly a thing of the past. Nowadays, you can find printable back to school savings within seconds through websites like Passion for Savings or The Krazy Coupon Lady.

There are also plenty of couponing apps out there to help you find coupons that will save you money on everything from backpacks and water bottles to pencils and notebooks. As an added bonus, incentivize your kids help find coupons for their own school shopping lists.

Let them spend the savings on something special, such as a new pencil bag with their favorite heroes or celebrities on it. For example, if they find $10 worth of savings in coupons, then they just earned $10 in extra spending money.

Dollar Store School Supplies

Not even Amazon or Walmart can boast to have the cheapest school supplies when you bring dollar stores into the picture. Why would you want to spend $3 on a basic notebook that your child will only use to work out problems and equations in math class when you can get 2 binders of slightly lesser quality for just $1?

Teachers care more about being able to read their students’ writing than they care about what quality of paper is being used, so even if dollar stores or 99 cent stores have lower quality school supplies, it’s still preferable to overpaying for notebooks, binders, pencils, and other school supplies. After all, little expenses quickly add up, and unless your kid is old enough to keep track of their school supplies, it’s better to focus on quantity over quality in case they lose things over the course of the semester.

Another easy way to save money with dollar stores is buying items your kids think they might need and then, as they get settled into a routine over the next couple weeks, invest in higher-quality school supplies through Target or Amazon when they know what supplies are actually needed to succeed in the classroom.

Join a Book Swap Club

The economy is improving, but education budgets are still down in the dumps. Schools not only lack the funds to teach kids about personal finance before they get out of high school, but many schools also lack even the most basic funding to regularly buy or replace books for English classes.

This means that parents are usually left on the hook for the cost of reading materials for K-12 students. To save money on books that your kids will probably only read once in their lifetimes, either you can find a used copy on Amazon at a discounted price or you can join a book swap club like the PaperBack Swap.

Book swapping clubs are free to join and the only thing you really have to pay for is a tiny swap fee (around $0.50). Alternatively, you can start your own book swap club under the school’s PTA organization to help your kids’ classmates save money on their books as well.

Prime Student by Amazon

If your kids are going off to college and haven’t signed up for their free 6-month trial of Prime Student, then encourage them to jump on the bandwagon! Prime Student offers college students with valid .edu email addresses the same great benefits as regular Prime members.

Except Amazon offers students a free trial of 6 months! A regular free trial for Prime membership is just 30 days. After the 6-month window expires, Prime costs just $49 per year for students until they graduate.

College students can also save on everything from shipping (free 2-day shipping is included in this membership) to music and video streaming with Amazon Prime. Prime Student members also get access to over 800,000 books in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, which could be a valuable resource for any bookworm looking for extra reading beyond their textbooks.

A few other tips to save on backtoschool shopping from California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues:

  • Check social media:  Many companies send their loyal followers coupon links and advance notice of sales. If you plan to bargain hunt this year, monitor your favorite stores’ Twitter and Facebook updates to find deals.
  • Sign up for mobile alerts: Retailers such as Target have “Text to Get” promotions. The stores will send sales alerts and coupons directly to your mobile device. If you’re only interested in backtoschool sales, you should make sure that you check the store’s policy on opting out afterwards.
  • Get Online: Online sites–like Ebates, ShopAtHome, and FatWallet act like a shopping gateway. The websites allow you to shop major stores and brands while giving you 6% or more cash back on your purchases.

Letting kids load up the shopping cart with dozens of items that probably fall into the “want” rather than “need” category can be an expensive mistake for many parents. Instead, take a frugal approach to this back to school shopping season by setting firm limits on your shopping list, seeking out more affordable alternatives to flashy, branded supplies, and amassing huge savings through free memberships in book clubs and Amazon.

How have you saved money with back to school savings? Did I miss any of the back to school savings tips you use?

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About Hank Coleman

Hank Coleman is the founder of Money Q&A, an Iraq combat veteran, a Dr. Pepper addict, and a self-proclaimed investing junkie. He has written extensively for many nationally known financial websites and publications. Hank holds a Master’s Degree in Finance and a graduate certificate in personal financial planning. Email him directly at Hank[at]MoneyQandA.com.


Hank Coleman has written 590 articles on Money Q&A. Learn more about Money Q&A on Twitter @MoneyQandA and @HankColeman.


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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Nick Vail

Love these tips, especially the Amazon Prime one. I used this very often in college and it saved me a ton of money.

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