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Last updated Jun. 22, 2024 by Peter Jakes

Back-to-school shopping season is upon us, and for the savvy bargain hunter, this means it’s time to roll up your sleeves and prepare for some strategic shopping. With careful planning and a little creativity, you can outfit your kids with everything they need without breaking the bank. Here are some expert tips to help you snag the best deals and enjoy a stress-free back-to-school shopping season.

Plan Ahead

The best way to save money on back-to-school shopping is to start planning well in advance. Make a list of everything you need, from school supplies to clothing and electronics. Prioritize the most important items and set a budget. By having a clear plan, you’ll be less likely to make impulsive purchases.

Create a Shopping List

Sit down with your kids and create a detailed shopping list based on their school requirements. Include all the essentials such as notebooks, pens, backpacks, and uniforms. Check with your child’s school for any specific items they might require.

Set a Budget

Determine how much you’re willing to spend on each category and stick to it. Allocate funds for each item on your list and resist the temptation to go over budget.

Shop at Thrift Stores

Thrift stores can be a treasure trove for back-to-school shopping. You can often find gently used clothing, shoes, and accessories at a fraction of the cost of new items. Look for reputable thrift stores in your area and plan a shopping trip to see what they have to offer.

Look for Sales and Discounts

Keep an eye out for sales, discounts, and special promotions at local thrift stores. Many stores offer additional discounts on certain days of the week or during back-to-school season.

Inspect Items Carefully

When shopping at thrift stores, make sure to inspect items carefully for any signs of wear and tear. Look for durable materials and check for any defects before making a purchase.

Take Advantage of Sales Tax Holidays

Many states offer sales tax holidays during the back-to-school shopping season. During these periods, you can purchase certain items without having to pay sales tax. Check your state’s tax holiday schedule and plan your shopping accordingly.

Research Eligible Items

Not all items are eligible for tax-free status during sales tax holidays. Research the list of eligible items in your state to make sure you maximize your savings.

Plan Your Shopping Trip

Since sales tax holidays are often limited to a few days, plan your shopping trip in advance to make sure you don’t miss out on any deals. Try to complete as much of your back-to-school shopping as possible during this time.

✓ Short Answer

This article provides tips for bargain hunters looking to save on back-to-school shopping. Plan ahead by creating a budget and shopping list, explore thrift stores, take advantage of sales tax holidays, and use online resources. Look for coupons and cashback offers, and consider buying in bulk. Organize a swap party for gently used items, and don’t hesitate to negotiate prices. Staying organized and creative will ensure you save money while getting your kids ready for school.

Use Online Resources

Online shopping can be a great way to find bargains for back-to-school items. Many websites offer exclusive discounts, promotions, and deals that you won’t find in physical stores.

Compare Prices

Use price comparison websites to find the best deals on the items you need. Websites like PriceGrabber, Shopzilla, and Google Shopping can help you compare prices from multiple retailers.

Look for Coupons and Promo Codes

Search for coupons and promo codes to save even more. Websites like RetailMeNot,, and Honey can help you find discounts on everything from school supplies to clothing.

Buy in Bulk

Buying in bulk can save you a significant amount of money, especially on items like notebooks, pens, and other school supplies. Look for bulk deals at warehouse stores like Costco and Sam’s Club, or search for bulk-buying options online.

Coordinate with Other Parents

Team up with other parents to buy school supplies in bulk and split the costs. This can help you save money and ensure that everyone gets what they need.

Store Extras for Later

If you purchase more items than you need immediately, store the extras for later use. This way, you’ll be prepared for future school years and won’t have to repurchase items at higher prices.

Organize a Swap Party

Organizing a swap party with other parents can be a fun and cost-effective way to get gently used school supplies, clothing, and books. Encourage parents to bring items their children no longer need and swap them for items they do need.

Invite Friends and Neighbors

Reach out to your friends, family, and neighbors to participate in the swap party. The more people involved, the greater the variety of items available for swapping.

Set Clear Rules

Establish rules for the swap party to ensure fairness and organization. For example, you could set a limit on the number of items each person can take, or create designated areas for different types of items.

Look for Cash Back Offers

Many credit cards and online shopping platforms offer cashback rewards for purchases. Take advantage of these offers to save money on your back-to-school shopping.

Use Cash Back Websites

Websites like Rakuten, Swagbucks, and TopCashback offer cashback rewards for shopping at partner stores. Sign up for these websites and use their links to make your purchases.

Check Credit Card Rewards

Review the rewards programs offered by your credit cards to see if they offer cashback on back-to-school purchases. If so, use those cards to maximize your savings.

Consider DIY Solutions

For certain items, consider do-it-yourself (DIY) solutions to save money. This can be a fun and creative way to get back-to-school supplies without spending a lot.

Create Custom Supplies

Customize plain notebooks, folders, and binders with inexpensive craft supplies. Let your kids decorate their supplies with stickers, markers, and other materials.

Sew or Alter Clothing

If you have basic sewing skills, consider altering or customizing clothing to fit your child’s needs. You can add patches, hem pants, or even sew new garments from scratch.

Negotiate Prices

Don’t be afraid to negotiate prices, especially when buying in bulk or shopping at thrift stores and local businesses. Politely ask for a discount or inquire about any upcoming sales.

Ask for Student Discounts

Many retailers offer student discounts on back-to-school items. Don’t hesitate to ask if a discount is available and be prepared to show a student ID if necessary.

Look for Open-Box or Clearance Items

Inquire about open-box or clearance items at electronics stores or office supply stores. These items are often discounted and can save you a significant amount of money.


Q: When should I start my back-to-school shopping?

A: Ideally, start your back-to-school shopping as early as possible. This allows you to take advantage of early sales, clearance items, and tax-free holidays. Planning ahead also helps you avoid last-minute rushes and impulse buying.

Q: How can I find out about sales tax holidays in my state?

A: Check your state’s Department of Revenue website or contact local tax authorities to find information about sales tax holidays. Various news outlets and retail websites may also provide updates on tax-free shopping days.

Q: What are the benefits of shopping online for back-to-school items?

A: Shopping online offers convenience, a broader selection of items, and the ability to easily compare prices. Additionally, online retailers often provide exclusive discounts, coupons, and cashback offers to help you save money.

Q: Are thrift stores a reliable source for back-to-school items?

A: Yes, thrift stores, consignment shops, and secondhand stores can be excellent sources for affordable, gently used back-to-school items. Always inspect items carefully for quality and consider wash and clean any garments before use.

Q: How can I make sure I don’t overspend on back-to-school items?

A: Create a detailed shopping list and set a budget before you start shopping. Keep track of your spending, look for sales and discounts, and avoid shopping for non-essential items. Stay organized and disciplined to stick to your budget.

Q: Is it worth it to buy supplies in bulk?

A: Buying in bulk can offer significant savings, especially for commonly used items like notebooks, pens, and paper. Coordinate with other parents to share the costs and benefits of bulk purchases.

By following these tips and staying organized, you can enjoy a successful and budget-friendly back-to-school shopping season. Happy shopping!

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