Don’t Get Schooled When Buying School Supplies

According to the National Retail Foundation, the cost of school supplies for the 2017 school year was the second most expensive in history, topped only by costs from 2012. Including clothing, electronics, shoes and supplies, families with children in K-12 programs will spend on average almost $700. For kids in middle and high school, according to the National Education Association, those costs can rise by more than $300.

Meanwhile, approximately 45% of children in the United States live in low-income families. When stable housing, healthy meals and uninterrupted utilities are a parents’ primary concern, a shopping list that includes paint sets, sticky notes and gym shoes can unquestionably feel beyond reach. Soften the blow of back-to-school shopping with a few hot savings tips.

Tips to Save on School Supplies

  • Search online for your district’s school supply lists. Then stick to it!
  • First see what you can reuse and recycle from last year. Still need to buy? Try to stay within a predetermined budget.
  • While themed notebooks, pencils and lunch boxes are fun, they’re expensive! Instead, consider allowing your child one splurge item and buying the rest based on what’s the lowest cost.
  • Play detective and track down the best coupons for your supply needs.
  • Check out second hand stores! Craigslist, Freecycle and thrift stores are full of unused or lightly used supplies, from backpacks to rulers.
  • Supermarkets and dollar stores can offer the best deals for generic items.
  • Have fellow parent friends? Buy in bulk and share between your families!
  • Wait for sales when possible. Check online deals daily so you can take the plunge when the prices are right. Starting earlier in the summer gives you more chances to save!

How to Get Free School Supplies

  • Check with your school district to see what programs they have in place. Many schools and teachers will work with you to whittle the list down to something more realistic.
  • See what churches may provide. Catholic Charities in La Crosse, WI, for example, distributes backpacks and supplies with the American Red Cross.

Look in to national and local nonprofits. The Salvation Army runs annual Back-to-School drives.  Near Madison, programs like School Supplies for Kids and MOM do the same.


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