It’s that time of year again. You know, when you feel like school just let out but every store you enter has back to school promos featured. But secretly, you might actually not feel stressed about it because you know deep down inside you’re eager for school to start. You love your kids, but its a lot to have them at home full time! 😉
Here are some tricks that I’ve learned to save money on back-to-school supplies.
1. Sign up for a Staples account.
You will regularly receive emails with updates on their 50 cent items and other special offers. This week I opened one of my emails and there was a $5 off $5 purchase to Staples!
You’ll also get email updates from Staples on their coupons. Anyone can find their coupons on their website, but since they are always changing you might just want to sign up to be reminded. And make it a habit to check the coupons before you visit the store. Usually every week there is a coupon for a FREE ream of paper. Even if you don’t use a lot of paper, you can consider donating it to your school or selling it at your yardsale for a profit!
2. Plan ahead.
Know your shopping list of needed supplies. If you have had children in school before, you probably already know what the supply list is for your child’s grade. If not, ask the school and see if they can get you the list, or ask a friend. You will find most of the best deals in July. If you wait until mid-August, prices on school supplies will increase and you’ll miss some of the deals.
Buy discounted gift cards to stores you are going to shop at for your school supplies. Raise is one of my favorite places to buy discounted gift cards. You can even print a voucher to use your gift card purchase online or at the store, so you don’t have to wait for it to arrive in the mail! I love that there are $5 giftcards available for Staples and OfficeDepot, in case you’ll only be spending a small amount—you don’t need to buy a full $25 or $50 gift card!
I highly recommend signing up for email updates from Raise for the stores you are considering purchasing from. I’ll watch the deals I get emailed and learn what percentage off is a good buy. It might be 3%, 6% or 15% off. But I warn you, the better the deal, the quicker they sell out! So be ready to buy immediately when you get the email update!
Redeem reward points (from places like swagbucks) or credit card points you have saved for a gift card to the store you will be shopping at is another great idea!
Here are some places that you might have rewards credits to check for (or might be able to earn some quick by referring friends and family!). Each of these online companies allow you to redeem your points for gift cards to places like Amazon and Staples, or choose cash back.
3. Shop smart.
I needed a box of twelve sharpened #2 pencils for my kids. They were on sale at Staples for 50 cents a box, however, they are not sharpened. My initial thought was I’ll get the pre-sharpened pencils instead because its a lot of time to sharpen the pencils. But then I checked the price on a pack of sharpened pencils and it was over $4! I immediately began to brainstorm ways I can creatively get my kids to sharpen the pencils for fun, instead of paying the higher price. 🙂
4. Don’t buy all your supplies at one store.
Keep your eyes open and cherry-pick your deals! You might find that the Dollar Tree is cheaper for certain items, but other items are cheaper at Staples or OfficeMax. As you are in these stores this summer, check the prices and compare.
Keep in mind that some deals change week to week, so its a good idea to watch their sales closely. The easiest way to do this is by checking your Sunday circular inserts or by checking online. I usually buy our supplies over the course of several weeks as I see different items go on sale.
Here are links to criculars (current weekly ads) for stores that you might want to watch:
5. Watch for FREE school supply giveaways.
Many churches and organizations in Lancaster County offer FREE Backpack Giveaways. Some of these even have school supplies in them as well. Check our Events Calendar and sign up for our emails so you’re sure not to miss these FREE events!
Here are a few of the backpack giveaways already on our events calendar—but as August draws near, you’ll probably see more added!
6. Use your swagbucks.
I installed the swagbucks search bar in my browser and as a result I earn enough swagbucks every year to pay for my school supplies through Amazon and Staples gift cards. The search bar is simple to install and only takes about 90 seconds to get set up and earning you some gift cards too!
If you’re not familiar with swagbucks—simply put, it is a rewards based site that allows you to redeem points for gift cards and other merchandise. The easiest way to earn points is by using their search engine each day, but you can also watch videos, print coupons, take surveys, do online tasks and accept special offers.
7. Buy quality.
For pencils this might not be quite as important, but for more expensive items like binders and notebooks, buy the brand-name items that you know will hold up all year. Your child will be using their supplies (even kindergarteners) very hard. Every day. In the long run, you’ll spend less money buying something that will hold up now, rather than replacing cheap items several times throughout the year.
Even crayons are worth paying extra for if you have younger kids. When we were at the Crayola Experience this summer, we learned that Crayola crayons are the only crayon that double wraps their crayons to give extra strength. One of my biggest pet peeves is crayons that snap in half on the first use. How frustrating that is for an adult, let a lone a kid!