Written by Spotloan

Many people do all of their back-to-school shopping in August or the first week in September. The early bird gets the worm, as they say. Or in this case, the early bird gets the widest selection of notebook colors. But being late to the game isn’t always a bad thing.

The National Retail Federation expects consumers to spend $37.1 billion in back-to-school supplies this year. Waiting for clearance school supplies may be the ticket to getting this number down. If your kids aren’t picky and you have enough supplies leftover from last year to get through the first week or two of school, you can get the rest of their supplies at a great discount.

After the school year starts, many department stores are looking to quickly get rid of overstock from the back-to-school summer shopping season. And this overstock won’t cost you an arm and a leg the way regularly priced school supplies would.

When Do Back-to-School Sales Start?

Typically, back-to-school sales last from late June or early July through the end of August. Sales during Labor Day week, the first week in September, might offer an opportunity for last-minute school supply shoppers, but they’re typically focused elsewhere.

Labor Day week tends to be a great time to pick up electronics instead. If you or your kids need a new laptop, headphones, or other tech gear, this is one of the best times of the year for that. Mattresses, patio furniture, and appliances usually go on sale that week, too.

But if you wait another week or two from there, you can save big on all the back-to-school items you still need. Whether that means lunch boxes, crayons, masks, or notebooks, the stores in the next section have it all covered.

Where to Stock Up on Clearance Back-to-School Items

Depending on what you need and how easy these stores are for you to get to, some of the best places to stock up on clearance back-to-school items are:

  • Target
  • Walmart
  • Walgreens
  • Kohls
  • Old Navy
  • JCPenney

We recommend starting with Target’s clearance school and office supplies. Many of their stores offer same-day delivery and pickup, plus there are convenient shopping lists on their website to help ensure that you haven’t missed any essentials.

Walmart offers similar items and deals, plus supply lists broken down by class or grade from preschool through high school and by character, with separate categories for things like superheroes and Harry Potter. And they have sections for teachers and college students, too.

Target and Walmart seem to offer the best deals and widest selections every year for clearance back-to-school items. Both have back-to-school clearance goodies for as low as 25 cents each. They each also sell clothes and electronics, so you can grab any other last-minute supplies you need while you’re there.  

Walgreens’ clearance school supply bins are a great stop to make for pens, pencils, glue sticks, and other basics. But they tend to empty out fast, so you’ll want to be prepared with a backup option just in case.

Lastly, Kohls, Old Navy, and JCPenney usually have clearance clothing sales early in the school year. They may also have some clearance backpacks leftover. But you’ll have to get your pencils and notebooks elsewhere.

Best Items to Buy During Back-to-School Clearance Sales

Not sure what items you’ll get the best deal on during back-to-school clearance sales? Here’s a list of typical items you may want to stock up on while they’re cheaper:

  • Crayons and colored pencils
  • Pens and pencils
  • Notebooks
  • Folders
  • Backpacks that your kids will like enough to use for a few years in a row
  • Lunchboxes and snacks
  • Glue sticks and other craft supplies

Clearance school supplies can save you up to 90% on everything your kids need to make it through the year. You can make the most of these savings by stacking manufacturer’s coupons on top at stores that take them, too. Or by joining loyalty programs and using cashback apps.