We're Not Breaking the Bank This School Year

by Sally Chaffin Brooks


September 6, 2019 .3 min read

There's just something so fun and exciting about back to school shopping. Am I right? For kids, it's gathering new supplies that signal all the exciting possibilities of a new school year. For parents, it's a sure sign that the long summer is almost over.

But when you have multiple kids and are working on a tight budget, the idea of spending an estimated $700 per kid on supplies, clothing, technology and more is anything but fun and exciting.

That said, check out these five tips for getting your kids everything they need to get out of the house and back to school without blowing your budget.

Start at home

Before you start buying items on your must-have list, check your home to see what supplies you might already have.

MaryBeth Matzek writes in the PennyHoarder that she goes through her kids’ school supplies at the end of each school year and puts the supplies that are still good, aside for the next year.  Want to get the kids involved? Turn it into a scavenger hunt.

You don’t have to stick to your own home either; hand-me-downs can be school supplies, sports equipment, and technology, as well as clothing. Team up with other families that have kids in grades above and below yours to pass along preloved items in good condition.

Team up to shop bulk

Items like pens and folders are almost always a better deal when you buy in bulk. But even though you can get great deals on bulk school supplies, will you ever actually use 200 pencils? Trae Bodge tells U.S.News that going in with a few other families in your kids’ classes on bulk school supplies can save everyone a lot of money. Besides warehouse stores like Costco or Sam’s Club, shop for bulk items online at Oriental Trading or Amazon

Price compare

When it comes to bargain hunting, the internet is your friend. Before you set foot in a store, use a price-comparison website like Google Shopping or Bizrate to find out which store has the best prices for the items you need. 

Once you’re in the store, use the ShopSavvy app to compare prices by scanning product barcodes. The app can sometimes find the item you're looking for, at a lower price, many times at stores like Office Depot, JC Penney, and Target. By the way, these stores will also match any competitor’s price. 

Mom of two, Courtney Klepsh, says when it comes to school supplies, she sticks to the list provided by the school and stays out of the stores. She says, “I use Target’s shop at home, park and pick-up service to save time and money.”

Shop throughout the year

It may be a little late for this school year, but it’s never too early to start shopping for next year.

Set price alerts for items you know your kids will need for the upcoming school year and buy when those items go on sale. With an app like ShopSavvy, you can set alerts for specific items or categories of items, and you’ll be notified if those items go on sale.

When it comes to back-to-school clothes and technology for her four kids, Kate Zeschin shops sales during the year, stick to a few high-quality pieces, and does laundry often. She says, “if any items are still in good shape after a kiddo is done, then they either become a hand-me-down, or I take them to a consignment shop.” Any money from the consigned items then becomes part of the budget for supplies throughout the rest of the school year.

Get your kids involved

Use back to school shopping as a way to teach your kids about financial responsibility. 

Hadley Bowling gives her three kids, ages 8, 11, and 13, a clothing budget for the season. She says this year, her 11-year-old, “chose to spend a large portion of the budget on the shoes he really wanted and found shirts for cheap ($6!). He was so proud of himself for being the ‘bargain shopper.’”