Wow, I am still in denial that is already August. Summer's been fun. But, the school year is right around the corner. I can tell, because my inbox is being flooded by messages from various schools regarding class schedules, events, after school activities -- and school supplies. If you're like me, you have a love/hate relationship with back-to-school shopping. I love taking my kids on this annual adventure. Trust me, I do. But I can also experience a lot of anxiety in the middle of the store aisles, after I let three kiddos loose to check items off of their list. Just like grocery shopping, I like to price-compare, purchase generic and get the best deal for my buck. Here are some of my thrifty tips for saving the most on your school supplies this year.

  1. At the end of each school year, place all of your unused school supplies in a bin and re-check it again in the fall. Often, teachers will return unused or gently used items back home with your children.
  2. Check your house for items first. Check the bin (mentioned in tip #1), your kitchen junk drawer or your home office for extra supplies. Who doesn't have several pairs of extra earbuds laying around the house, unused pens, scissors and rulers.
  3. Use the dollar store and dollar bins to your advantage. Many times you can find great deals on generic (and sometimes brand name supplies) at the dollar store and at the bins in front of your favorite store.
  4. Get creative and make your own fancy binders and folders. We often have a lot of extra binders from the previous school year or home use. Often these have a cover insert where your child can insert a blank sheet of paper. Children can decorate with photos, drawings and stickers. They can change the cover out monthly or each semester. This is great for your little "doodler", too.
  5. Trade supplies with neighbors and friends. If your child is in need of items like fancy calculators, protractors and other items that are only used for a year or two, trade those reusable items with friends who have children above or below your child's grade.
  6. Purchase back-to-school clothing in the fall, when items go on clearance.  Most of the time it is still too warm on the first day of school to wear those cool distressed jeans and flannel anyway. Allow your child to get one back to school outfit for the first day or wear a summer outfit. Take them shopping later in the fall when all of the fall and winter clothing is marked down.
  7. Return items. If my kids toss something into the cart that wasn't needed or if I find it cheaper elsewhere, I have returned numerous items to the store to re-pad my bank account. This doesn't have to been an extra annoyance or trip to the store. Simply return the items the next time you do your next Target run or run to the store for milk.
  8. Stick to the list. Let your children know ahead of time that if something isn't on the list, that it isn't needed to make them successful in the classroom. However, if you child (especially older children) want a fancy binder, locker accessories or gym shoes - allow them to work it off at home or apply their own funds towards the purchase.

Have another great tip that you use to save on school supplies (and your stress level) this year? I'd love to hear it!  Shoot me an email in between sharpening all of those #2 pencils and labeling folders.