As the warmest months of the summer come to a close, there’s one thing that’s on all of our minds: back-to-school shopping. Whether we’re students, teachers, or parents of students, most of us know the struggles of wrapping up the summer and getting ready to return to school.

Perhaps the biggest area of concern is how much it costs to start a new school year. On average, parents of K-12 students are expected to spend just over $848 per household on back-to-school supplies.

From electronics and clothes to pens and pencils, the back-to-school shopping list can get pretty long. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to save money come back-to-school time, so you have one less task to worry about. Read on for our favorite back-to-school shopping tips.

6 Tips to Help You Back-to-School Bargain Shop

  1. Dig Through Back-to-School Supply Leftovers from Last Year

One of our favorite back-to-school shopping tips is to start at home. This is a tip for saving in many different categories, including keeping your grocery budget in check, too. Shopping before we’re sure of what we have on hand can lead to habitual overspending.

Go through closets, office supplies, and craft corners first. Make a list of everything that you have, and once that’s done, it’ll be easier to see what you need. We often have more pens, pencils, notebooks, and other school supplies hiding around the house than we realize.

  1. Thrift it Up With New-to-You Back-to-School Supplies

Once you’ve listed out the school supplies you still need, hit the closest thrift store before going to a traditional retailer. You may be surprised at what you’ll find. People donate school supplies every day. Things like pens and pencils, backpacks, and other supplies will likely be cheaper here than anywhere else.  

And most thrift stores sell racks on racks of gently used or acceptable-condition clothes, and some with the tags still on, too. Different thrift stores have different rules and standards for cleaning items before putting them out on the racks.

  1. Look for Back-to-School Supplies at Local Garage Sales

You can find lists of local garage sales on sites like Craigslist, The Patch, and Facebook. Whatever you didn’t find at the thrift store may be waiting for you a few streets over with a $1 sticker attached. You may find supplies, clothes, backpacks, or even electronics like calculators, foreign language translators, and more.

Most garage sales prices are already fairly reasonable. Many people are just looking to clear out some space without relying too much on the price tag of these everyday items to make a difference in their budgets.

That said, if something seems unreasonably priced, don’t be afraid to negotiate. You’re here to buy, and they’re here to sell, so a fair price benefits everyone. Being polite and fair is often all it takes.

  1. Look for Back-to-School Shopping Sales

If you’ve struck out at and around your home and in local thrift shops, you’re not out of options yet. We still have a few more back-to-school shopping tips to consider. It’s time to start browsing some back-to-school shopping sales.

Large retail chains like Walmart and Target tend to offer significant and short-term sales featuring back-to-school necessities. Their reward program, Target Circle, deserves a special mention in this category.

Target Circle regularly features hundreds of deals, as well as birthday bonuses, and it’s free to sign up and start saving. Coupled with back-to-school sales, you could end up saving big.  

  1. Order School Supplies Online Using Digital Coupons and Cashback Sites

When all else fails, order online! Well, more likely through an app these days, but the result remains the same. Ibotta, Fetch Rewards, RetailMeNot, and Rakuten are among the best coupon apps in 2021.

Depending on which one(s) you use and what you’re shopping for, you might find digital coupons to save on your total or earn cash back after your purchase is confirmed. Ibotta and Rakuten are famous for their extensive cashback offerings.

Fetch Rewards allows you to scan receipts and earn points toward gift cards you can also spend on necessities. And RetailMeNot is one of the best options for saving before you cash out rather than getting money back after.

  1. Apply for a Spotloan for Quick Extra Money

If your concern is more about finding the money you need for back-to-school shopping than finding the best deals, Spotloan has it covered. You fill out a simple online application, pick your terms, and get money in the bank fast once you’re approved. Spotloan makes it easy to get the funds you need when you need them.