The National Retail Federation (NRF) estimated that the average spending on “back to school” items has increased by 42 percent over the last ten years. The average American family spends $630.36 on clothing,

Electronics, pens, paper and other items. The costs are even higher for college students. These numbers are pretty grim for parents. But there are ways to reduce the amount you are spending this year. The key is to plan and buy head to save on back to school supplies.

How to Save on Back to School Supplies


Shop at Thrift Stores

Thrift stores often get unused items from discount stores that your kids need for school, like paper, pens, notebooks, pencils, erasers, post-it-notes and more.

  • Shopping at thrift stores is the best way to save on apparel. Your kids are growing every day, so paying for the latest and greatest outfits doesn’t make dollars and sense. There are recent, gently used items at thrift stores that look and fit great.
  • Garage sales are also good options for back-to-school.

Limit Trendy Items

There is an entire industry dedicated to licensing trendy items, usually based on popular musicians or movies. Pencil bags, backpacks, pens, notebooks – all of them have themes such as Hello Kitty, Justin Bieber, The Walking Dead, or the Frozen princesses. There are enough superhero lunch-boxes for your child to use a different one every week. What this means for parents is that the constant pressure from kids to buy trendy items for the first day of school.

Sit down with the kids and talk about the value of a dollar and explain that you’re limiting them to one or two trendy items this school year. Give them free reign to pick whatever they want, up to a certain dollar amount, so they take ownership over what they buy. Then cut it off.

Text Alerts Check for Texts


When searching for discounts and coupons, don’t forget that the stores are now mobile. Many stores have promotions to increase consumer interactions. Stores like Target and Bed, Bath & Beyond allow you to text them and get a promo code texted to you. Sometimes the savings are big, such as a 20% off discount on a single item.

  • Make sure you are not missing out on mobile device coupons by checking the companies’ social media accounts for more information.


If you aren’t using Ebates, it’s time to start. Ebates is a cash-back shopping service available online. The website gives you the chance to shop at big brands and stores, like Dell, Macy’s, Barnes & Noble and Walmart, and in return get at least 6% or more cash back on your purchases.

  • Ebates also is a gateway to exclusive discounts, special offers and things like free shipping.

Timing Matters


Back-to-school shopping is seasonable, with the rush being in August and again in January. But guess what? There are deep discounts on school supplies right after the rush. In some cases, you can even get 50 to 70 percent off the retail price. Prepare by buying your January supplies in September, when retails slash prices. Do the same in February, after the winter rush is over. You might not be able to get everything your kids need, but for basics like pens, pencils, erasers, paper, folders, and backpacks, there is no reason not to buy early.