For my kids school starts again August 11th.  Can you believe it’s so early this year?  Having had 4 weeks in a row of 100 plus temperatures I really hope that the air conditioners are working properly, and I feel sorry for the teachers as I know with this crazy heat there will be no play ground time to burn off that summer energy the kids inevitably will have as school is starting so early.

But as much as I’d can’t believe it is starting so early, in reality it is.  And as all frugal parents know, the month before school starts means it’s time to start school supply shopping.  For the past couple of years I’ve taken the lazy way out and bought the school supply packets from school.  However, out of curiosity I decided to see if I could save the money like I used to when my kids were younger, and I was deep into mega-bargain shopping mode.

School Supply Shopping Prep

Here are the items I collected to get myself back into school supply bargain shopping mode.

  1. A Consolidated Spread Sheet of Needed School Supplies – I find it easier than jumping from one child’s school supply list to the next child’s school supply list if I consolidate them into one single list.
  2. Sunday’s Advertisements (both online and in print) – Print these out or bookmark them on your smart phone as most other stores will match prices for exactly the same product.  Remember exactly the same product means that quantity and brand name have to match…exactly.
  3. A Consolidated List of Sale Items Needed with Prices  - Let’s face it.  Most of us are shopping with our kids in tow.  The last thing we need to be doing is trying to juggle the kids who keep wandering off, our school supply lists, and the advertisements reminding us what we’re looking for in each store.  Take 5 minutes before you go and compile a list.
  4. Coupons

With my prep-work done I got busy shopping.  Here’s what I’ve gotten so far:

Frugal School Supply Shopping

Frugal Lessons to Remember

As I was working my way through the list I remembered some important lessons about frugal school supply shopping that I had forgotten having not done it recently.

  • Don’t be afraid to negotiate with the people about their prices.  See the category of #2 Pencils listed above?  I could have just gone into the store and seen that the advertised item I was looking for was out of stock and moved on.  Instead I asked the manager if they had any more in stock.  She is the one that then offered me the price on the 24-pack that was even lower than the 10-pack advertised.  I ended up saving 80% off of the original price of pencils for simply not being afraid to talk to the store manager.
  • Hit the stores within 1 or 2 days of the mega-sale items being listed.  Stores always have a limited amount of those items, and they disappear quickly.
  • Stick to your guns when it comes to the prices.  If you see an advertised price somewhere, and they are out of that item, odds are you will find that item later at a similar price later providing you start your shopping early enough.  Don’t let them sucker you into a higher priced item just because you are feeling frustrated about having to go to a store multiple times.  It can be very much worth it to wait.
  • Watch for school supply bargains year round.  For most schools now, the school supply lists seldom change from year to year.  Because you have the ability to know what you’re going to need next year, it is often smart to find bargains throughout the year when the demand isn’t so high, and stores are making room on their shelves for other seasonal items.  For example, in the middle of winter last year I bought some composition notebooks for personal use at $0.70 a pop. I’m seeing them right now for $2.50 to $3.50 depending upon the store.  Also, the trapper keeper that my son is using this year?  I bought that one from Pottery Barn, and with his name embroidered on it I paid $7.00. Because it is a higher quality product than the average trapper keeper, it is still like new, and he will be using it for his third year in a row.

As you can see I still have some items left on my list to buy, but I have a couple of weeks before school starts.  I’m hoping to find those bargain items soon, but if I don’t I still feel pretty good about how much money I was able to save for my two kids.  Of course next year I’m going to feel even better as I will be starting shopping for those school supplies the minute school starts this year.

What frugal tips to you have when it comes to School Supply Shopping?  I’d love to hear some new ones.

 

Kelly Kinkaid (1006 Posts)

Kelly Kinkaid enjoys writing about such topics as stretching a dollar, personal finance, diet and fitness, and living a life well lived. She spends all of her spare time in her many roles including but not limited to soccer, basketball, swimmer, band, and piano mom, runner and wife. You may contact her via e-mail kellyology(at)gmail(dot)com.


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6 Responses to Frugal School Supply Shopping

  1. I did the combined list. That did make life a lot easier.

    I think we spent the most on backpacks, but I also went “Not buying a lunch box next year, so choose a plain one” :D I’m okay with buying new backpacks. At least in elementary school.

    Otherwise, we got a bit at Sams. Like the pencils. Got a box of 72 Papermate pencils for $6, I think it was. :D I wish they’d sold spiral notebooks that way!

    • Kelly Kinkaid
      Twitter: Kellyology
      says:

      I have seen bargains every where on spiral notebooks from $0.25 up to $0.33 cents. That’s a pretty good deal. This is the first year I haven’t had to buy them. I’m feeling all thrown off. I think I may just have to buy them for myself!

      • I decided to not go super cheap with my daughter’s, because she is ROUGH on supplies. I also didn’t go cheap on the ones my son needed for down time (any notebook of any sort). But, it was weird needing to buy wide-rule.

        • Kelly Kinkaid
          Twitter: Kellyology
          says:

          I don’t buy cheap quality either. That’s a frugal shopper no-no in my book. It’s not frugal if you have to buy more of the same later.

          • I totally agree. :D I learned that lesson quite clearly from my parents.

            Cheap is cheap and you get what you pay for. But if you get cheap because it’s on sale, then you tend to make out better :D

  2. I started out our back to school shopping by checking my closet. I keep a stash of school supplies there. I pick them up when they are at their lowest price. This year I think I had half of what we needed before headed out the store. I will restock my supplies here at home though just to take advantage of the low prices. I think for 3 kids I have spent about $15 so far this year.

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