How to Save Money on Back-to-School Shopping

From textbooks to backpacks, this time of year can be expensive.

Summer is coming to a close, and it’s time to start thinking about getting the kids ready to head back to school. For many of us, that means spending money. There are notebooks, pencil pouches, jeans, sneakers, and backpacks to be purchased, along with lunchbox fare and after-school snacks.

And if you have a kid heading off to college, there are even more purchases to consider, from dorm-size refrigerators to overpriced textbooks.

While you may need to budget for extra back-to-school spending in August, that line item doesn’t have to break the bank. Here are six ways to save on back-to-school shopping.

Take Advantage of Tax-Free Weekends

If your state offers a tax holiday during the back-to-school season, you may be able to save by shopping during those dates. Not only will you avoid paying taxes on school-related items, but many retailers lower their prices on such items during the tax-free events to offer you even deeper savings.

Check local news to find out about your own state, but three upcoming tax holidays for school shopping include August 20-26 in Connecticut, August 13-19 in Maryland, and August 11-13 in Texas.

Buy in Bulk

When you shop at warehouse club stores, you can find large packs of essentials at a great value. Ask neighbors, family members, or friends if they’d like to split the costs of school supplies. Then you can all save by purchasing in bulk, says money-saving expert Andrea Woroch.

Or you can keep the savings for yourself: “Prepare ahead and stock up for the entire school year for all your kids by taking advantage of bulk value packs,” Woroch says.

Know When to Splurge

For some back-to-school purchases, opting for a discount brand is fine, but for other items, it’s worth the money to spend more on quality so you won’t have to replace them a few months into the school year.

“Sneakers and backpacks, for instance, are better name-brand buys where quality gives you a better product and longevity,” Woroch advises. “Your child can get extra mileage from a high-quality backpack through several school years, making this a better value over a cheap style you replace every year. Just avoid [backpacks featuring] cartoon characters that your child will outgrow the following school year.”

Know When to Save

For school items such as notebooks, paper, and pencils, it’s better to save money by purchasing generic brands. “On these items, there is little difference between brand names and store-brand versions,” Woroch says.

She recommends checking out store brands from Office Depot and CVS to find large discounts. “They will be rotating buy-one-get-one-free offers and penny deals on these supplies through August,” she adds.


Search for Online Deals

If you can’t bear the thought of dragging your kids away from the pool to take them shopping, you can find everything you need for going back to school online, often at lower prices. Search for deals on backpacks, clothing, and technology at DealNews or for other back-to-school essentials at Amazon or other retailers.

Use a Price Comparison Tool

When you’re shopping online, you can save money by downloading a price comparison browser extension, such as Invisible Hand. It instantly notifies you if something you’re browsing online is sold at another retailer for less. “This makes saving for school essentials [easier], especially the more expensive items like tablets and laptops,” Woroch notes.

In addition, create an account in Paribus, which will track the prices of purchases you made online. If the prices are reduced, it will request price adjustments to get money back on your behalf without any extra work from you, Woroch adds.