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How Do You Save Money on School Supplies?

Patch has compiled a list of tips, and we want to hear your great ideas, too.

Parents, get ready to open up your wallets. It’s about time to start shopping for school supplies.

According to the National Retail Federation, on average people with children in kindergarten through high school will spend $688.62 on their children’s back-to-school shopping, up from $603.63 last year. That money, combined with back-to-college spending, will total $83.8 billion, “serving as the second biggest consumer spending event for retailers behind the winter holidays.”

Patch has compiled some tips for how to stay within your family’s budget on these shopping sprees. And we want to hear what tricks you have, too. Please add your thoughts to the comment section below so your neighbors can benefit from your frugal wisdom.

Frugal Living suggests going on a shopping trip through your home before you hit the stores:

See if there are any items on your child's school supply list that you might already have. Things like rulers, pencil boxes, calculators and backpacks do not need to be replaced each year, so don't be afraid to reuse last year's if it's still in good shape.

The website has a creative solution to how to get personalized supplies on the cheap:

Plain Jane school supplies always cost less then their fancier counterparts, but let's face it: to a kid they just aren't as fun. The solution? Buy the budget-friendly basics; then, let your kiddo jazz them up with stickers and colorful doodles.

Organized Home explains that the “shop at home” strategy works better with some  advanced planning:

Designate a box, shelf or covered records box as School Supply Central. This tip will serve you well throughout the year the year. Find that stash of 9-cent boxes of crayons or a few packs of binder paper from last summer's shopping spree? Tuck them into the box.

CNN Money suggests going digital

You can save 50% or more off the cost off a new textbook by downloading it from CafeScribe. …  Students can also rent textbooks from "Kindle Textbook Rentals" for 30 days to a year for 80% off the price for the paper books.

Emily Stone (Editor) August 06, 2012 at 08:15 PM
On Facebook, Jennifer Cox Weglarz wrote: "Buy the pre packed box supplied from the PTO. Its cheaper and very easy."
Stephanie Price (Editor) August 06, 2012 at 08:31 PM
Our pre-packaged box supplies were way more expensive than just buying the supplies at the local Walmart or Target (the box supply service is typically a fundraiser for schools). We always re-use scissors, folders, backpacks, whatever wasn't destroyed. My other rule of thumb (I'm sure teachers will love this), but if there's some unusual item on the school list and I can't find it (after going to 2 or 3 stores)...I just don't bother to get it! Ha ha ha. :) School shopping is not supposed to be a scavenger hunt. If the teacher wants some obscure item, and we moms/ dads can't easily find it....then Oh, well, I cross it off the list!
RationalTht August 06, 2012 at 10:05 PM
This was a big "it depends" for my family. When the schools were going for the "buy 1 white, red, blue, green, etc" of something, it was more difficult to find the specific items. In addition, the quality is usually pretty good with the prepackaged items, but not always. The other big issue is that you don't always need to buy the same thing each year - many times my kids bring items home that were never used the entire year - that can either be reused by the same child or passed down to a sibling. One thing parents need to be aware of is that the schools (at least in LF) were asking _kids_ if they had any unused school supplies to donate to "needy" families. Well, our own kids were smart enough to realize that our family could reuse the items and brought them home.
RationalTht August 06, 2012 at 10:07 PM
Another thing about the scissors and glue, sometimes the teachers "collect" them and put them in a big bin for everyone to use - those items never seem to make it back home.
Jennifer Fisher (Editor) August 07, 2012 at 12:37 AM
Candace Moore Hill shared this tip on Facebook "On June 1, when your children come home from the last day of school, YOU go through their back packs and bags and take any and all school supplies to a shelf or drawer. Then, two months later in August, YOU, hand the barely used pack of colored pencils back to your student. This goes for many other things, like erasers, etc."
Kate Lauderbaugh August 07, 2012 at 01:25 AM
We definitely shop at home first. I do like the convenience of the school supply packs if only so I don't have to search for one of every color stuff. And I don't have to by a big pack of something, when I only need a couple.
Kathy Ruhnke August 07, 2012 at 06:43 PM
Echoing what others have said, we first look at home in our supplies stockpile (we try to gather crayons, markers, pencils, etc. when I see them on sale for cheap). I think you can generally get what you need by shopping yourself, rather than the pre-packaged PTO supply boxes - although I certainly see the convenience of that. The only item I really had to hunt for was the box of craypas - wound up buying them online at Amazon last year.

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