Five tips on how to save money on back-to-school shopping - Pathways LA

25th Jul 2018

Five tips on how to save money on back-to-school shopping

Back-to-School supplies

As summer draws to a close, many parents have to worry about how to afford the ever-increasing cost of school supplies, school clothes, electronics, and other accessories. That worry is magnified for families with multiple children. Pathways LA wants to help lessen the stress by providing parents with some ways they can cut the cost of back-to-school shopping and save money.

Back-to-school time should be a time all parents rejoice in, not a time we dread because of costs. Last year the Huntington Bank Backpack Index, which has been tracking the average cost of back-to-school supplies since 2007, found that it now costs an average of $1,000 to send a child back to school. With back-to-school prices rising each year, we’ve done our homework to help you make your dollar stretch this fall.

Money-saving strategies that will make you a back to-school-shopping pro this year

1. Make a list (and stick to it)
The best way to avoid spending more than you need is to avoid spending on unnecessary items.

Make a list of your child’s must-haves and shop from that list. This should include everything from school supplies and school clothes to things like lunch bags and erasers. If your school provides its own list – and many do – incorporate that into yours. This will also help you avoid accidentally making double purchases.

2. Join the “home shopping” club
No, not the tv network! Now that you’ve made your shopping list, double check your home closets and drawers for items you might already have on hand. You’re likely to find clothes that are still suitable for school, helping to bring down the amount spent on new clothes.

Now’s the time to find those calculators, pencils, pens, crayons, markers, notebooks, and anything else purchased last year and either leftover or unused. You’ll be able to scratch some of these items off your list, maybe even buying some time for tip number 3.

3. Take advantage of clearance sales AFTER school starts
If you can get by without buying everything on your list for the first few weeks of the new school year, chances are you will find a lot of your shopping items at clearance prices mid-way through September.

In a perfect world, we could wait to buy everything until clearance season starts. Realistically, though, you’ll likely have to make some basic purchases. Think about what you need to get you through September and consider purchasing just those items off your list. Return to the stores when prices drop to finish off the shopping. Your wallet will thank you for the patience!

4. Stop by a garage sale or dollar store
Summer is yard sale and garage sale season so take advantage of that. You can find backpacks, electronics, and even schools supplies like paper and pencils. You might even find some great clothing options if you’re not opposed to secondhand, lightly worn items.

The dollar store is another spot to find great bargains on school supplies. You’ll get discounted prices on items such as pencils, pens, and paper but you’ll also be likely to find less expensive lunch bags, hand sanitizer, and other good backpack fillers.

5. Visit online coupon sites
Websites such as and RetailMeNot provide shoppers with a large variety of coupons for both in-store deals as well as online purchasing. Shopping online with coupon codes can help you save not only on the item purchased but also on gas or transportation costs to the store.

However, keep in mind items bought online could have a shipping fee. Be sure to consider whether the shipping cost negates any savings or, worse yet, makes the item more expensive. Many stores will offer free shipping on purchases in excess of a certain dollar point. Other online stores will offer free shipping regardless. Determine if the coupon savings is beneficial after any shipping cost.

Just Say No

Last but not least, you can save a lot of money by remembering the most cash-saving word of all: No.

The best way to save money on back-to-school shopping is to only buy what is needed. It’s OK to say no to trends and other nice-to-haves. Brand name versions of pretty much any school essential are no better than their less expensive counterpart, so stick with no frills versions to take your dollar further.

For information or assistance with other child care needs, you can contact Pathways LA here or call our office at 213.427.2700.