How to Find the Best Deals on Back to School Shopping

In 2017 there were 50.7 million students enrolled in public and secondary schools. Out of that, 35.6 million were in pre-K through eighth grade and the other 15.1 million were in high school. When you add 5.2 million students enrolled in private schools and over 20 million in colleges and universities, it makes it is easy to understand why back-to-school shopping gets so much attention from retail companies.

Not only do students need paper, pencils, pens, and markers, they also buy new clothes, technology, and electronics. The following are the top secrets to finding the best deals during your back-to-school shopping excursions.

Know Your Inventory

Before you shop, know what you have at home and compare it with the items you need. Most schools provide shopping lists on the school website, which outline your child’s school needs based on their grade.

One place to save money is for the purchase of children’s clothes. Review their current wardrobe and consign anything in good condition that they no longer wear. This will free up space for new items and get you cash for needed purchases. By turning your unwanted items into store credit, you will often receive more than if you take the cash payment. You can then use the store credit for items on your list.


Turn older items into something new. Before shopping for new clothes find ways to convert old favorites into something they can still use.

You can dress up an older item with crystals or fabric patches or turn old jeans into shorts. Convert outgrown T-shirts into a memorial quilt for a child heading off to college, or bedazzle and monogram older clothing for young girls. Craft stores and websites like Pinterest offer an abundance of creative ideas for recycling old items for a fresh new look.

Consignment Shops

Consignment shops are now popular and accept clothes for children of all ages. Stores tend to have high standards and only accept like-new items with no tears or stains. Kid to Kid and Once Upon a Child specializes in clothing for young children, whereas Plato’s Closet targets pre-teens and teens. You can find clothes, shoes, accessories and toys at up to 80% off retail prices.

Signing up for the store’s email list will alert you to promotions throughout the year, allowing you to save even more.

Beyond official stores, look for churches like the YMCA and other organizations, which set up consignment events specifically geared toward back-to-school buyers. Sales tend to be in late winter and late summer. The clothes at these venues are often lower priced than a consignment shop, but they do not have the quality control of a permanent store. Weekend events can include items such as bedding, books, toys, shoes, clothing, and educational resources for children of all ages.

With children growing out of clothes quickly, consignment shops provide good quality clothes at an affordable price.

Shop at Specialty Stores

Usually specialty stores offer great back-to-school sales. For instance, Best Buy will have a better selection and often lower sales prices than a discount store’s everyday low price. Office supply stores such as Staples, lower the price of pens, notebooks, and other school supplies to entice buyers to shop. Online websites make it easy to compare the price of a sale item, although some sales will require a store visit.

Instead of buying everything at one store, utilize back-to-school sales, which occur from late July to mid-August.

Take Advantage of Dollar Store Finds

Dollar Stores offer a range of items on many back-to-school lists. You can find basics like notebooks and pens, along with paper products, tissues and hand sanitizer found on many teacher lists. Stores also stock items college students need, including cleaning supplies, dishes and small houseware items.

Look for Coupons

Find discount coupons on apps such as Retailmenot, and sign up for email notifications at your favorite stores, for additional discounts and alerts to sales.

Clearance Items

Retail stores receive new merchandise every season and often begin markdowns before the current season ends. For example, summer items begin to hit the clearance racks in August to make room for fall and winter collections.

Clearance items change frequently. You have a more limited selection to choose from, but it can increase your savings. For instance, you can shop for back-to-school clothes among the summer items, instead of in the fall. The weather is warm enough in most areas of the country to wear summer clothes for another month.

Technology, electronics, and computers get marked down after school begins. Save money by waiting to purchase new items until mid or late September.

Buy Commonly Used Items in Bulk

Warehouse clubs can save you money on items you need in larger quantities. Whether you want to send snacks for your child’s elementary school class or buy a year’s worth of paper and pens, you can often save money when you purchase items in larger quantities.

Buying in bulk, you can provide your child with all the materials they need for the year. You can also partner with friends or family to split the cost, or send extras to the classroom. Teachers are always appreciative of extra supplies including tissues, hand sanitizer, pens and paper.

Discounts Come to Those Who Ask

Stores offer discounts through a variety of marketing channels. They might place special coupons in their online newsletter, online discount websites, social media channels, or physical fliers. Even if you failed to investigate all the places a store might offer savings, you could also ask at the register.

If there is a coupon available, store associates will often keep extras at the register to improve customer satisfaction. Associates are told not to offer the additional discount unless the customer asks. When you checkout, always ask if they have any in-store coupons available.

Other discounts may be available for students, members of the military, seniors, AAA members, or AARP members. Use your affiliation to receive additional discounts. The sales associate may also be aware of the specific days or upcoming events that will offer additional savings.

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