Written by Spotloan

“Back to school.” Most students dread those three words. So do their parents, because the start of a new school year often means buying school supplies, clothes, electronics, and more.

And in the U.S., back-to-school spending is huge. This year, it’s expected to reach $83.6 billion, up more than 10 percent vs. 2016, the National Retail Federation estimates.

Here are seven tips to help you save money during back-to-school shopping.

  1. Start by ‘shopping in your closets’

Before going online or to stores, make a visual inspection of what your kids already own. Are their jeans still in good shape? How about their jackets and coats? Are still supplies left over from last year? By ‘shopping in your closets,’ you can determine what your kids actually need, especially clothes, vs. what they may simply want.

2. Make a plan

Talk to your kids about what they’re going to need. Check their school’s website for a list of suggested school supplies and/or textbooks needed. And use the back-to-school supplies checklists from Real Simple, Good Housekeeping, and GreatSchools.

The goal is to make a list of school supplies, textbooks, clothes, and other items needed. Then, comparison-shop online to help you get an idea of costs—especially with any big-ticket items, such as electronics. From there, create a realistic budget of what you’ll need to spend.

Tip: Comparison-shop using sites such as PennyPinchinMom.com, CheapestTextbooks.com and Textsurf.

3. Shop aggressively for big-ticket items

Spend the bulk of your research time comparison-shopping the most expensive items on your list. Check out our June 12th blog post, “How to save money on electronics,” for money-saving tips on laptops, tablets, and smartphones. And our post “Why 4th of July sales are hot—and where the savings are” will help you find mid- and late-summer deals on a variety of merchandise, including clothes.


4. Shop during a sales-tax holiday

Several states offer sales-tax holidays during the back-to-school season. WalletHub has a list of the states and tax-free shopping dates, as well as the merchandise sold without state tax added.

5. Look for sales, coupons, discount cards, special offers

Many retailers offer big back-to-school sales and coupons. Coupons.com, DealNews, and Offers.com are useful resources for locating the best deals.

Also, follow your favorite retailers and brands on social media, as they’ll sometimes share special offers with followers on Facebook and Twitter.

Purchase discounted gift cards for your favorite retailers. For example, you might spend $50 on a $60 gift card from a major clothing retailer. To find gift card deals, check out The Penny Hoarder, Raise, Gift Card Granny, Cardpool, and CardCash.

Ebates is another great resource for coupons, deals, and earning cash back, with a section that spotlights back-to-school deals.   

6. Don’t forget the dollar and big-box stores

For basic school supplies, shop online or in store at Family Dollar and The Dollar Tree. Another option: eBay’s back-to-school specials can save you money.

7. Buy in bulk

If you have more than one kid returning to school, it might make sense to buy supplies in bulk at big-box store like Costco or Sam’s Club. Just make sure you’ve got storage space available at home.