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Each fall, parents, students, and teachers hit the stores to stock up on the supplies they’ll need for the year. Due to budget cuts in schools, parents are expected to pay more than ever for the school supplies their children need. When you include school supplies, extracurricular activity fees, and other various expenses throughout the year, parents are paying between $600 and $1400 each school year. School supply lists used to be incredibly basic, such as some paper and some writing utensils and that was it. Nowadays, parents are expected to contribute a myriad of personal school supplies for their child, in addition to classroom supplies, such as plastic bags, tissues, disinfectant wipes, glue, scissors, and so much more.
In addition, teachers often spend much of their own money making up for missing supplies from students or to avoid asking parents for yet another important item. Most teachers spend over $500 a year from their own pocket for supplies for their classroom and students, and many even spend over $1000 a year!
Whether you’re a teacher or a parent, you know the pain of shelling out hundreds of dollars at the start of each school year, so we’ve put together a handful of money-saving tips to help you save big on school supplies this year and in the years to come.
Look Around the House
You’d probably be surprised at how many pens, pencils, three-ring binders, spiral notebooks, and other school supply items you have lying around your house. Dig through desks, old boxes of office supplies, in the junk drawer, and under the kids’ beds. You’re likely to find a good amount of the basic supplies your kids will need around the house, which can save you a good chunk of change to put towards bigger, more expensive items.
Check Out Local Thrift Stores or Garage Sales
Just like you, other people probably have a lot of school supplies taking up space in their home. Local thrift stores, consignment stores, and garage sales always have bins of writing utensils, notebooks, and more for super cheap. This is also a great route to go if you’re searching for new clothes for the school year. Many places have gently used and barely worn clothes that you can get at a steal of a deal. Some discount stores also sell things brand new but at a much lower price than normal, including electronics (computers, calculators, etc.), clothing, shoes, backpacks, and more.
Go to the Dollar Store
You can’t get everything that you need at the dollar store and sometimes their prices aren’t better than big box stores, but they have some great deals on a lot of school supplies. Especially for teachers, they have countless baskets, bins, posters, and more to help you set up and decorate your classroom. They also sell packs of pencils, crayons, markers, paint, erasers, paperclips, rubber bands, and so on. If you need a stash of this type of supplies for your classroom, the dollar store can be an absolute goldmine for teachers.
Bargain Shop & Compare Prices
It’s so easy to load up the kids, head over to your big box retailer, and get all your supply shopping done in one day. While that will save you time, it won’t always save you money. Be sure to search at some smaller stores before you head off to a big retailer so you know what their prices are and what kind of supplies they have. School supply ads are all over the place in the last few weeks of summer, and it should be pretty easy to compare some prices and decide where you need to buy what items. Remember you can prioritize where your money gets spent too. If your teenager desperately needs new shoes, cut some corners on some of the other supplies you get him so that you’ve got that wiggle room in your budget to get him the shoes he wants.
Encourage Older Students to Work for Their Must-Haves
Maybe you’ve got a teen who wants a new backpack, even though her old one is still in great shape. Tell her that you’re not going to pay for a new backpack, but she is welcome to work to earn the money to buy it herself. This might mean her doing some extra chores around the house or babysitting a younger sibling during the summer, or it may mean her going out and getting a summer job at a local restaurant or store. This is a great lesson for students to understand that money doesn’t just appear, and it will make them take better care of their belongings when they were the ones who worked hard to pay for them. At the same time, they might not deem those items worth it and may choose to not earn the money for them.
Stock Up After the Big Rush
A few weeks after school starts, retailers get desperate to get rid of their remaining school supplies to make room for fall and Halloween seasonal items. They often discount leftover supplies to dirt cheap prices, such as loose-leaf paper for $0.10 or spiral notebooks for $0.15. Take advantage of these sales and stock up for next year! Also remember that there are a lot of items on sale during the back to school season, so if you anticipate your child needing more of something (such as glue sticks, crayons, or loose-leaf paper) halfway through the year, buy extra now! Crayons and markers are often a dollar or less during back to school season, but they tend to be between 2 and 4 dollars other times of the year. Plan ahead and you’ll save money now and in the future.