School Supplies – How to Get the Best Prices

It’s true, those back to school supplies are already out.  How is that even possible?  Here in the Pacific NW summer is just getting under way, or so it seems.

But they are there and they are ready for the picking.  Some people will see them and jump right in and get it done and move on with summer, others will pretend they aren’t there and wait until the day before school starts.

Then there is the rest of us, how will we do it?  Well something like this:

1.  Watch ads and watch for great sales – this will probably mean you need to pick up items as you see them, but we do have time on our hands.

2.  Watch a few different stores – You don’t need to get everything at Staples or Target, take your time to shop around.

3.  Grocery Stores – When you make your grocery list check your store for school supply sales as well.

4. Don’t get impatient, we have lots of time.

5.  Don’t feel the need to drag it out either – if you see something that is a killer deal, by all means get it.  If you see something next to it at a good price, pick it up too.

6.  Remember to save your receipts, all things can be returned if you for some reason find it at a different store.

7.  Save your receipts for price adjustments.  Check each stores policy.  Target’s is 7 days, where Fred Meyer’s is 14 days.

8.  Get the bare basics – get what you need then wait for school to start and stock up when things start going on clearance.  Yep, I am the mom that showed up on the first day of school with 12 pencils for my kids instead of 48.  They eventually make their way in.

9.  Always be on the look out – I noticed this year in January they had a “refresh your stock” sale.  I didn’t get anything because there were no needs, but then I saw them all go on clearance.  I am well stocked on paper and pens right now.

10.  Coupons and rebates – Yep even for school supplies. You will need to watch for them carefully and I will try and point them out when I see them.  I am currently holding one and had I jumped on the right sale I could have gotten my pens for FREE.

11.  Watch for clearance – even during the whole back to school sale, watch places like Target, they tend to put things on clearance.

12.   Always have your school supply list –  I keep a school supply list with me all year long and I watch for things.  My kids are teenagers and after a while you begin to just know what they need.  When my kids were younger and money was super tight, I had the school send me the list way before they put it out just so I could start watching.

13.  Watch for specials online – I have teenagers, the list changes.  We no longer need crayons we need $100 calculators.  No, I am not kidding.  Watch for online specials at Staples and other supply stores and don’t forget to use Ebates to get cash back on these purchases.

14.  Watch for backpacks throughout the year.  I usually can keep this cost low and rarely do I buy one in July/August.

15.  Don’t Always Look for the Best – these are school supplies that are sometimes shared.  Don’t feel like you need to get your child the top quality, highest rated crayons or pencils.  They will lose them.

16.  Check Ebay and Used Book sites for college books.

I know what you are thinking right now.  Who would have ever thought getting school supplies for cheap would be so much work?  Well, yes it does take some time, but think of it as a game.  I have done this for so many years that I kind of find it challenging.

Last year I couldn’t physically do this method, so I just went in and bought everything at one store.  OMG!  I had no idea how much I was saving until it did it differently.

How much do you usually spend on back to school supplies?

Read on to find out how to save on school clothes shopping.



  1. Last year my youngest daughter’s class did supplies as a co-op; everyone chipped in and all supplies were purchased by one parent (who got a huge discount through his work) and then delivered to the classroom. I think we paid $17 for everything. I haven’t heard whether we are doing it again this year or not.

    Although I usually do not shop at WalMart, I did buy my older girls’ supplies there last year as they had the best prices for everything and I didn’t have to run around to different stores looking for the best prices. We paid around $35 for both of them, seriously. We will probably do the same this year, although both girls have lots of stuff from last year that will rollover for this year.

  2. I love the co-op idea. Not only does it save you money, but you don’t have to do any shopping. Wow, great tip to get out to others, maybe they can try that as well. I also agree Walmart would be a great one to show up and get everything in one place, if that is the method you need to choose. Thanks for the great tips!!

  3. Becca Filley says

    I actually finished almost all of my daughter’s school supply shopping in January…I always check the back of the store at Walgreens and every week was something new put on clearance. So while doing my normal weekly shopping I would check there and pick up this and that…that way I don’t have to rush around to get things and if we are having a tight month, it’s ok now!

  4. I love the way you think and shop!!!!

  5. A $100 calculator? That’s crazy talk…

  6. A $100 calculator is not crazy talk exactly. Yes, it’s WAY more than I want to spend, but it is a needed specialty item. It’s called a Graphing Calculator. My son needed one for Algebra 2 and it actually cost about $120 at Wal-Mart last year.

  7. Andrea she’s right. And yes Allison you are right too and that they aren’t $100 but just over $100. When I have to purchase a 2nd one I am going to do it online through Ebates

  8. Great tips! Also – most schools have their supplies lists on their school website. I printed one out for each kid and stapled it to a big paper bag, plus I keep one in my purse – and cross off as I go. Sometimes I end up with doubles – but if it was a great price, it’s not like school supplies are going to “go bad” before next year. Besides, I often gather up a bunch of supplies from my stash and that’s what I give to teachers for “teacher appreciation” week or whatever. When I was a teacher, and spending my own money on supplies, I appreciated that way more than another apple paper weight or bottle of perfumed lotion!

  9. Love the teacher’s appreciate gift idea!!! See, planning ahead, that’s how you continue to save. Thanks for the awesome tip and insider info. 🙂

  10. If it makes you feel any better, I still use my graphing calculator that my mom got me for 9th grade Algebra 2 and I’m 27 now finishing up my PhD. It’s expensive but worth it! One tip, there is a box on the back of TI calcs where you can engrave your child’s name….this will prevent or at least discourage other kids from stealing.

  11. Jessica you are right that it will get used over and over for years. My daughter has used her for quite a few years and is not ready to give it up, so I will be having to purchase a 2nd for my son.
    Great tip on putting their names on it. Thanks.

  12. I don’t have kids to buy supplies for but I am a teacher and watch the sales. I love this time of year because household things like ziplocs, tissues, lysol wipes…all go on sale as well!

  13. Good tips! I love it when Walmart puts out their school supplies. It’s time to stock up for the rest of the year!

  14. I love back to school sales, and set my yearly prices by what I see in July & August. As a homeschooling mom of five, I’ve been known to purchase boxes of crayons by the dozen. When they’re 24 cents each, it makes sense. (I’d rather do that than pay the $2.49 per box they’ll be in September!) With experience, it’s easy to learn what the rock-bottom prices will be and be patient. Around here (the Midwest) our prices bottom out around the first week of August, and stay there until the third week of August.

    Oh! And don’t forget the office supply stores. Scope out their sales, because sometimes they offer things for FREE, and who doesn’t like that?!

  15. Stephanie says

    Another idea is to sign up for the Staples reward card and use the rewards checks to purchase school supplies. Just be careful to watch the expiration date on the checks.

  16. Stephanie that is a great tip that I should have added. Especially since last year Staples had the “free” batteries after rebates. If you have a check from school supplies you can start rolling those rewards.

  17. Great tips Loni, thank you!!! It’s true stock up, stock up. That’s key.

  18. As a parent and tutor, I definitely stock up on school supplies at this time of year.

  19. Staples is the best place to shop for school supplies, they always have the best prices on thier items. I love saving with Staples coupons online too!


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