7 Creative & Frugal Ways To Save On School Supplies

Finding ways to save on school supplies begins with spending time looking at what is in front of you. Searching for savings on school supplies may be as simple as investing in changing or establishing habits. When it is time to shop outside your own stash, there are several sources for discounted or free supplies. Here are seven+ creative and frugal suggestions for saving on school supplies.

  1. Gather, Sort, and Inventory

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    Gather all of the school supplies in your home. Check for outgrown or worn out school clothing to discard. Closets, desks, purses–even last year's backpacks may hold treasures you need. Pile everything together to sort, and write a list. Keep this list with you when shopping so that you do not duplicate purchases.

    Make this a fun activity where young children learn how to sort, count and record data. It also teaches them to let go, to help others and to appreciate the value of taking care of their belongings.

    Obtain a current, written list of required and “optional” supplies directly from your child's teacher or school, not from retailers. Check your inventory against their list, and staple both to an envelope to keep with you when you shop. File receipts in the envelope, and stash cash there to keep your budget well in sight and in mind.

    The ABCs of common items may include:

    • Binders, loose-leaf paper
    • Calculators*
    • Colored pencils, crayons, markers, highlighters
    • Erasers
    • Glue
    • Index cards
    • Number 2* pencils, pens
    • Pocket folders*
    • Rulers
    • Scissors
    • Spiral notebooks

    Teachers likely will ask each student to contribute Kleenex®, disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer and zippered storage bags. Coupons help save on those items.

  2. Tap Into Teacher Tips*

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    Most elementary teachers condense all supplies into a bank of shared resources instead of having each student keep up with their own, so conserve your cash buying specialty items.

    *Many elementary schools loan calculators to classrooms as part of the curriculum and their teachers prefer pocket folders specifically with or without prongs. Ask before buying because teachers that will laminate theirs need them without prongs.

    *Mechanical pencils are fun to use but a nuisance in elementary grades. Likewise, super-cool, plastic-covered, themed pencils damage pencil sharpeners. They are difficult for small hands cranking manual sharpeners, and the lead often is inferior. If your child insists on having a specialty pencil, try to agree to reserve those for home.

  3. Go Thrifting and Garage-Sale Hopping

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    the latest craze of rock painting.

    Good refurbished computers cheap are available via an arrangement between Dell and Goodwill that recycles used computers nationwide. Prices can range $20-$200, and machines come with a warranty. Also ask at yard sales for used laptops, iPads, and tablets because many people upgrade and toss the old one aside. Scour online for bargains on higher-end supplies and clothing at sites like eBay, Craigslist, and Zulily.

  4. Organize a Supply Swap

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    More fun than thirft shopping is a swap party! Modify the how-to for an adult clothing swap to suit kids. Invite cousins or friends close in sizes for a fun afternoon swapping clothing, pooling school supplies and playing do-it-yourself games.

    Have everyone bring five or six items of unwanted clothing in very good or like-new condition and school supplies. Start with a few games while adults organize the donations, then bring the kids in to cool off and swap till they drop. After time to preview the inventory, draw names to let kids take turns choosing clothing. Everyday supplies can be divided into loot bags to tote home.

  5. Ask Your Employer If Their Company Donates School Supplies

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    Employers sometimes donate in-kind to employees or will if they know there is a need. If yours does not, volunteer to lead a donation drive to benefit your child's school or community group like scouts. This would be a great project for private, non-profit schools or homeschool co-ops.

  6. Attend a Donation Drive

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    Stuff the Bus is a registered trademark of Iowa State Daily Publication, but it is used with permission by civic groups and businesses nationwide to collect school supplies to donate to districts, schools or families.

    Watch for announcements in newspapers, television and radio ads about distribution events happening near you. Be sure to verify whether the distribution is “first come, first served.”

  7. Let Them Earn Higher-End Items

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    Pay your children to do extra jobs for you so they can buy specialty and higher-end items, or reward them with a finder's fee for scouring for the best bargains on what they covet. Perhaps doing odd jobs for neighbors will earn cash. Teach them to track their work, meet deadlines, record income and manage savings. When it's time to part with their hard-earned cash, that must-have item may become so yesterday.

Searching for savings on school supplies is what you make it, so make a few fun adventures this year. Outdoor temperatures may be soaring come Day One back to school, but inside you can feel calm and collected with your cool savings on school supplies. If you have other frugal tips on how to save on school supplies, don't forget to comment them below and share this list with the rest of your friends!

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