Finances > Budget Tips > 7 Ways to Save Money on Back to School Spending

7 Ways to Save Money on Back to School Spending

These seven ways to save money on school spending not only help you achieve your financial goals, they’ll help your kids learn the value of a dollar!

“On average, according to the National Retail Federation, a family with children in kindergarten through 12th grade will spend about $549 preparing for school each year,” says Ethan Ewing of “College students and their families will spend an average $618.”

Pictured is a “Back to School” kit for college students — Amazon has some unbeatable deals!

And, here are Ewing’s seven ways to save money when you’re going back to school…

7 Ways to Save Money on Back to School Spending  

1. Watch for back to school sales. Loss leaders at office supply stores are less common than last year, but many stores are still offering great buys. Take advantage of bargain-basement deals on needed school supplies, and stock up when possible.

2. Scour unlikely spots for deals. To save money, think outside the box. Grocery store aisles, for instance, might have school supplies on clearance by now. Thrift stores sometimes have new supplies at rock-bottom rates. If the price is right, stock up for this year – or next year!

3. Crunch lunch numbers. Instead of automatically ordering hot lunch or packing a lunchbox, check the real cost per day. The average cost of school lunches was $2.08 last year. While that may sound expensive compared to a simple homemade lunch, it is about half the price of many pre-made, packaged meals many kids like. Families who are seriously struggling economically can look into free or reduced-rate lunch programs for kids.

4. Buy used back to school items. Now known as “recycling,” it’s a great way to save money on back to school spending. Buy used textbooks and resell them as soon as the school year ends. When faced with a bigger buy, such as a high schooler’s calculator, investigate used and lower-cost sources such as eBay, Craigslist and online retailers.

5. Reuse the backpack. Evaluate automatic purchases. Kids don’t need a new backpack every year, or new sneakers simply because school is starting. Buy the things they really need, and wait for sales (and growth spurts) to inspire major wardrobe refashions.

6.  Stretch fashion dollars. When it comes to fashion, older kids demand labels. Thrift and consignment stores frequently have barely worn clothes for a fraction of the price. Also shop discount chains and look for your kids’ sizes (and labels) on eBay. Some parents offer to pay the price of a standard garment, and let tweens and teens pay the difference if they want the brand name.

7. Plan meals for the whole family. Take advantage of the back to school season’s organizing spirit to save money for the whole family. By planning meals and saving money on the grocery bill, families can eat better and save more than resorting to takeout at the end of an exhausting day. Plus, home-cooked meals provide a great way for families to stay in touch once the school year begins.

For more ways to save money on back to school spending, read Tips for Kids, Their Allowance, and Going Back to School.

If you’re a college student with a loan, you might find 6 Ways to Avoid Major Student Loan Debt for College Students helpful. is a free website for people to learn about personal finance issues, credit cards, debt relief assistance, insurance, mortgages, and other loans.

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2 thoughts on “7 Ways to Save Money on Back to School Spending”

  1. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks for this money saving tip, CollegeGirl! Every little bit counts — and it’s definitely worth it to research different cell phone plans.

  2. I wasn’t using my phone too much when I moved to college. Most of my friends lived on campus, and I had a landline to communicate with my family. But I still needed a cell phone for emergencies. I heard about prepaid phones and thought they were kinda bogus. I did research and found that I was completely wrong! I bought a prepaid cell phone and love it. It’s super cheap (a great price for what I need it for) and super easy to use.