8 Money Saving Back-to-School Shopping Tips

  • July 20, 2021
  • By: GreenPath Financial Wellness

While the summer sun keeps shining, the time is right to think about the upcoming school year.

In a time of financial uncertainty, given rising prices on everyday essentials and hikes in interest rates, now is also the time to look closely at our household budgets.  Even now, the store shelves are stocked with back-to-school supplies and clothes. The sales are underway online and in-store. So, while we still may be thinking sunscreen and summer fun, now is the time to think about saving money on the upcoming school year!

Before you set off for the store or online shopping, take a moment to involve the family.

Especially as families prepare for the school year, kids can learn a lot watching their parents. What they see can set a pattern for life.

Experts say children as young as five or six can understand the basics of money. Gather the whole family together when you talk about available funds for back to school supplies, clothes and any needed technology purchases.

Even before they are in first grade, children can understand what money is and how to use and save it.

The conversations may vary depending on your child’s age, but the general idea is the same – teach them that not every school supply is a “need” and that there are some budgeting limitations to follow.  This will help them become comfortable talking about money and get a view of how budgeting plays a part in shopping.

Set aside enough time to have the conversations about what is truly needed this school year, what can be reused, and what items fit in the budget. Whether you shop online or in the stores, a little planning can help you save a lot of money.


Be a Smart Shopper

Once you’ve worked with the kids to build the shopping list, have a family meeting to pick the best stores or websites to shop.  Compare prices. Look at sales and promotional pricing. Plan your shopping trip around the best deals for your budget.

For those in-person purchases, don’t buy all your supplies from one store. Shop around! Certain stores will price match or have better prices.

Talk to kids about avoiding trendy supplies that feature the latest movie, superhero or cartoon characters. Usually, themed back-to-school supplies can cost 20-30 percent more than their generic counter-parts.  Having this conversation ahead of time, before the family heads to the stores, reduces the chance for “impulse” buying.


8 Money Saving Back-to-School Shopping Tips


  1. Start early! Doing your homework early can often help you spend less and choose from a better selection of supplies.
  2. Shop by looking at circulars and online sales.  Plan your trip around the best deals throughout the rest of the summer until school starts.
  3. Take inventory of what your child has now and what can be reused during the new school year.
  4. See if your child’s school website has a shopping list for each individual grade. That way you can identify things that they need right now and what can wait.
  5. Don’t buy all your supplies from one store. Shop around! Certain stores will price match or have better prices.
  6. Talk to your children and identify needs versus wants. You can set expectations and limits on things like shoes, clothes or sports gear.
  7. Avoid cartoon characters. Usually, themed back-to-school supplies can cost 20-30 percent more than their generic counterparts.  A great way to still give them style and personalization is to buy stickers and let them decorate their supplies.
  8. Consider shopping solo. You’ll stay focused and avoid unnecessary purchases.  Your child may want a new backpack, when last year’s will do just fine!