Back-to-School Shopping on a Budget: Where to Go and What to Buy

back-to-school kids backpacks

It’s that time of year when many kids are thinking about heading back to school. This means back-to-school shopping

But you don’t have to spend a lot of money to start the school year off with confidence. Here are some money saving tips to make the transition to school a little easier.

school supplies

Back-to-School Shopping on a Budget

From pencils and notebooks, to comfortable shoes and clothes, back-to-school expenses can add up! But you don’t have to spend a fortune on these products to send your child school looking and feeling their best. Here are a few money-saving ideas:

Make a School Supplies List

Before you get too carried away with back-to-school shopping, make a list (perhaps in a Bullet Journal). Figure out what you really need for the year. Many schools give you lists of supplies they want you to bring, including extras, like tissue boxes or sanitary wipes for the class. Start there.

You’re less likely to make impulse buys if you have a good list with necessities. If you have a fixed budget, it will show you approximately what percentage to spend on different types of items.

Start with What You Already Have

The simplest money-saving tip is to never spend it in the first place. Before you go off buying new things, have your child try on clothes and shoes that fit last winter. They might not need a new pair just yet. Or their toes might be poking through too-small shoes! Either way, it’s good to have a good starting point.

Last year’s backpack might be in pristine condition, so consider reusing it before rushing out to get another one.

Quality Matters

Even though a nicer backpack or lunchbox usually costs more, investing in a quality, durable one might save money in the long run. A good canvas backpack should last you for two or three years. In contrast, a plastic one might not even make it through the month.

The same principle applies to shoes and clothes, too. You might feel like you’re saving money buying the cheapest clothes, but if they fall apart or look really ratty quickly, you’ll have to keep buying more clothes. You’re better off getting good quality items. If you get them on sale, they might even be less expensive than cheaply-made counterparts.

Do Your Research Before Back-to-School Shopping

It’s also good to do price comparisons before you shop. While it’s wonderfully convenient to click through your favorite shopping deals on Amazon, it’s usually cheaper to shop locally for less expensive school supplies. These include things like pencil cases, markers, notebooks, pencils, or pens. On the other hand, Amazon might have just the right deal on the outfit or backpack you’ve been eyeing.

Target or Wal-Mart usually have great back-to-school specials, but one store may be cheaper than the other one, so if you have the time, you might want to scan both before committing to one.

The Dollar Tree is a hidden gem for school supplies.  They have everything from calculators to notebooks, to binders, none of which costs more than $1! Of course, you might need to pay more than $1 for many of these items, so it’s definitely not a one-stop shop.

Shop the Back-to-School Sales

sale for back-to-school-shopping

These days, you almost never have to pay full price for back-to-school fashion. While some stores offer great sales around holidays, like Labor Day, many will periodically offer storewide discounts of

20-50% on certain items. You might be able to save at least 15% off your whole purchase just by signing up for an email list.

Here are a few stores children’s clothing stores that are not shy about offering their clothes at a discount to get you started:

  • Boden
  • The Gap
  • Gymboree
  • Hanna Andersson
  • J.Crew Crewcuts
  • Janie and Jack
  • Old Navy
  • Tea Collection
  • The Children’s Place

If you don’t know whether some online boutique will offer discounts, first sign up for emails. Wait on the email list for a week or two before making a purchase (if you can). Chances are, the item you’ve been eyeing will show up on sale some time soon. Whether you’re shopping online or in-store, don’t be shy about using coupons or finding coupon codes, too.

End-of-Season Sales

back-to-school shopping

Need another sale shopping tip: a lot of stores are clearing out their summer selections right now to make way for winter clothing. Think about next year when shopping an end-of-season sale. Your child might not need a new bathing suit right now, maybe the next size up is 75% off. If you have enough storage space, why not take advantage of the offer so you’re set for next year?

One exception to the rule: shoes. Your kids’ feet don’t always grow at a predictable rate, so it’s pretty hard to guess what size they’ll need next year at the right season.

The Look for Less

The children’s consignment industry has blossomed in recent years, and you can often get really well-made, cute clothes at a fraction of the cost! Websites like ThredUp have huge selections, but it’s often better to go to your local consignment store so your kids can try things on in-person. Virginia Beach locals- be sure to check out Sprout Boutique and Rock-a-Bye Baby!

Even if you’re not buying kids’ consignment clothes, you can always make money from outfits they’ve outgrown, so be sure to save them at the end of the season. You can re-consign them for next year.

Even more cost-effective: Thrift Stores! These stores don’t do the same type of quality control as a consignment boutique, but can often have many hidden gems at a fraction of the cost.

Tax Free Shopping Days

Tax-free shopping days are a great way to save money on school expenses, since you won’t pay any sales tax on clothes, shoes, and school supplies. Each state has different tax-free shopping days, and sixteen states don’t charge any sales tax on back to school items, including clothes. Even if your state’s tax-free days are weeks before you go back to school, it’s a great time to stock up on necessities.

Give Back with Back-to-School Shopping

Most parents are well-aware of the high cost of back-to-school shopping expenses, but not everyone can afford the basic necessities. While you’re shopping, think about picking up a few extra supplies. You can donate them to your local school for kids who might really need them. Or, even consider organizing a Back-to-School Party. Several people can assemble backpacks and supplies for kids who really need them.

However you get ready for school, and whatever supplies you end up buying, be sure to share those fabulous back-to-school pictures with your friends and family on FamilyApp!

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