Best Back-to-School Shopping Tips

Written By Jeff Hindenach
Last updated November 9, 2017

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Money Saving Tips
August 12, 2016

Simple. Thrifty. Living.

Are you looking forward to re-entering the predictable routine of the school year? Before you can kiss your taller-than-ever children and send them off to their new classrooms, you have to undergo the annual ritual of back-to-school shopping. Here are four tips to make this experience as stress-free and budget-friendly as possible.

How many times have you taken advantage of a lunchbox sale in June, only to have your child beg for a different one after they see what all their friends have? Ask your kids to mention three items that communicate “cool” in their school’s little fashion world and try to buy these things at the very last minute. By then, kids usually have a much clearer idea of what’s trendy and you won’t be stuck with perfectly good supplies that are rejected because of their embarrassment quotient.

Each teacher has their own preferred teaching method, and this extends to the type of supplies they want their students to use. It’s a waste of time and money to outfit your child with three-ring binders if their teacher wants them to use only spiral notebooks. Hopefully your child’s teacher sends out a notice long before the first day of school; if not, check with the school office and find out the policy for supply lists. If your school participates, Amazon has teacher lists on their site, and you can order all the supplies you need in one click.

While Amazon has its limitations, it can be a treasure trove for a few specific school-related items. Are certain shows or characters suddenly showing up everywhere you look? If your local purveyor is completely out of Pikachu merch, turn to the community of collectors on Amazon. When the whole world is your shopping mall, your child just may end up with the coolest (and most affordable) character wear ever. Amazon is also the ideal source for printer ink, with high-quality remanufactured ink cartridges selling for a fraction of what the name brand ones will cost you.


Children old enough to understand the math are honored by being given a set sum of cash to spend on school clothes and supplies. Once they’re spending funds they view as their own, they often turn into unquenchable bargain hunters, and suddenly you’re not the one trying to lay down the law. Teens enjoy having a prepaid debit card, sparing you from any worries about over-spending.

The lists of supplies can seem longer every year, but balancing out bargain items with a few really special new purchases can add a bit of dazzle to your child’s whole school experience.

About the Author

Jeff Hindenach

Jeff Hindenach is the co-founder of Simple. Thrifty. Living. He graduated from Bowling Green State University with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism. He has a long history of financial journalism, with a background writing for newspapers such as the San Jose Mercury News and San Francisco Examiner, as well as writing on personal finance for The Huffington Post, New York Times, Business Insider, CNBC, Newsday and The Street. He believes in giving readers the tools they need to get out of debt.

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