Inflation has caused prices to rise for all sorts of products. School supplies and back-to-school shopping, in general, have been impacted along with groceries, gas, utilities, and other necessary expenditures. The National Retail Federation estimated that families would spend almost $900 on school supplies in 2022. Overall, they anticipated that families would spend about $11 billion on crayons, backpacks, folders, and other back-to-school supplies. But there are a few ways that you can cut down on spending while still giving kids the tools they need to succeed.
Helpful Tips and Ways to Save All Year Long
- Start by shopping at home. Things like scissors, lunchboxes, and backpacks should last multiple years. Some things can also be handed down from sibling to sibling. Often, a little cleaning is all that's needed to make these items ready for another school year.
- Swapping supplies with neighbors and friends is another great way to save a lot of money on school supplies while still ensuring that kids have new-to-them things they will enjoy. This is an especially good way to save money on things like expensive calculators required by some math classes.
- When the school calendar comes out, look at what the teachers have planned and the holidays ahead. Everyone focuses on the cost of school supplies when school starts, but these costs can continue throughout the school year. Having things like "Dress like your favorite character day" or field trips on your calendar means that you should know to plan ahead for these events. You can start saving up for field trips now, and at the same time, keep an eye out for items needed for events throughout the school year.
- Some years or teachers have very specific lists. However, some supplies are needed year after year. Watching for sales throughout the year and stocking up on pencils, pens, notebook paper, crayons, and the like can result in major savings during back-to-school time.
- At the end of the year, insist that kids bring home all of their things. A quick email to the teacher might be helpful to make sure young children return home with all of the scissors, pencil boxes, and other supplies their families outfitted them with at the beginning of the year. Inventory everything to know what can be reused next year. Additionally, clean everything now. Many a lunchbox gets thrown away because it was stored for the summer with the remains of the last school day's lunch still inside!
Useful Resources to Help You Save
Even in the face of rising prices, there are still ways for families to save money on back-to-school shopping. Going to the dollar store, trying thrift stores, looking on Facebook Marketplace, or shopping at consignment stores are great ways to save money. Apps can also be great tools to help you hunt down good deals on needed supplies. Browser extensions can help parents find coupon codes for websites selling the supplies they need. In general, shopping during sales and comparing advertised prices are great ways to save money on everything from laptops to colored pencils. However, also consider community resources. Many churches, businesses, and nonprofits organize back-to-school supply giveaways. These events often include backpacks stuffed with supplies, haircuts, clothing closets, and sometimes even mechanics offering free basic car maintenance to families struggling to make ends meet. These events may also have food and games, making it a fun day out for the kids.