August seems to be the new “Back-to-School” month with many districts beginning sometime in August. Traditionally, school started in September, but over the years the k-12 education system has gotten more “in-sync” with traditional semester colleges and starts before Labor Day Weekend. The reasoning behind this is so high school seniors can take advantage of summer college courses.

As parents wrap up their summers and begin shopping for school supplies, it’s financially savvy to keep a few tips in mind:

Don’t go overboard on school supplies!

It’s easy to get caught up in all the office and school supply sales and buy 10 spiral notebooks, 5 3-ring binders, and every other cute looking folder and pencil case out there. But beware – you might be buying supplies your child may never use. This tip is especially pertinent for middle school and high school students.

Once school starts, their teachers (which range between 4 and 6 of them!) may require certain supplies from a large 3-ring binder that fits everything to multiple spiral notebooks. Some teachers work in teams, making supplies more uniform, while others request specific items for their class, like composition books.

Solution: Keep it simple on their first day. Make sure your child has a backpack, paper, pencils, a pen, a two-pocket folder and a highlighter to start the first day with. After they receive each class’s syllabus, then purchase the items needed for each class.

But what about all the sales beforehand?!

If you just can’t stand passing up the hot deals, some supplies are always needed – like pencils, erasers, paper, backpacks, etc. Solution: Take advantage of the deeply discounted basic necessities – like two-pocket folders for 1-cent each at Staples this week.

Back to School sales at Staples this week: July 28th - August 3, 2013
Back to School sales at Staples this week: July 28th – August 3, 2013

For those that live in one of the 16 states that offers a sales-tax-free weekend, check out this Parade article to see if and when your state is sponsoring their sales tax holiday. Tip: Many of the states that offer this start Friday, August 2nd.

Don’t forget to look for coupons, promo codes, and last minute sales after school begins. And, if you belong to a rewards program, you can sometimes purchase backpacks and get the entire amount returned to you in the form of a rebate.

*Notable mention: The Frugal Toad also wrote an article on how to save money on school supplies this week.

How do you save money on school supplies?


  1. Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter Reply

    I have a friend who is a teacher, and she told me that some parents go way overboard. They buy special things even for the classroom because they dont’ want their kids to use the normal stuff. It’s crazy!

    • @Daisy – Some parents do go overboard and there’s no need to. I’d say wait for the class supply list the first day or week of school.

  2. I don’t have kids but I’ve found another way to take advantage of the loss leaders being offered at the end of summer.

    My husband’s church hands out shoe boxes around Christmas for parishioners to stuff full of goodies for a child in a developing nation. Many of the suggested gifts include school supplies. Some homeless shelters also collect bags of school supplies for children.

    So if someone has an overwhelming urge to snag the back to school bargains, perhaps they could buy some of the basic needs (pencils, paper, calculators, etc.) and donate them to someone who needs them.

    • @Pamela – What a great idea! There are some great deals out there that I know people can’t pass up, but don’t really need for themselves. Donating those items is a terrific way to help others.

  3. Paul @ The Frugal Toad Reply

    Great minds think alike! Thanks for the mention!

  4. Our kid is starting preschool this September. I don’t think he needs any supplies though. I’ll have to ask the teacher again. He’s only 2 so I’m sure he’ll just play all day.

    • @Mid Life Finance – Baby RB40 is probably too little to need any school supplies just yet, except for maybe a snack and Pull-Ups! But who knows. Maybe that teacher will request classroom supplies that the whole class will use – like non-toxic glue, paint, or Play-Doh. 😉

  5. SB @ One Cent at a Time Reply

    the best option to me is to buy at after-sells for the next year. We do not have a kid but, we donate school supplies to a charity and we have full supply of items from last year.

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