Tell Us … Your Favorite Way to Save During Back-to-School Season (You Could Win $100)


school-supplies-on-brown-tableEvery month, we pose a question to our readers about how they manage money in their everyday lives, in the hopes that we can glean some insight from their experiences.  

Those who respond are entered for a chance to win $100 to put toward their financial goals and may be featured on the site. 

This month, we want you to tell us: What’s been your favorite way to save money during the back-to-school season?

In the “good old days,” that might have involved checking the Sunday circulars or clipping coupons the night before your shopping excursion. But in the age of apps and Amazon, many people likely resort to technology in order to find the best deals, and fast.

Maybe you go a different route and choose to skip the mall altogether, perhaps by hosting a back-to-school swap group to trade books, toys and supplies. Or perhaps you throw an end-of-summer yard sale so you have some extra cash on hand for all the sports equipment you’ll need once the school year starts.

Whatever method you use to prevent your budget from blowing up during back-to-school season, let us know! Comment below, and you’ll be entered for a chance to win $100! Be sure to use your email address when you sign in to comment—it won’t be visible to others—so we can notify you should you win.

Open only to legal residents of the 50 states and the District of Columbia who are at least 18 years old as of the date of entry. Premium users are not eligible. Contest running from August 16, 2016 to August 31, 2016. Finalists must be willing to share their name and a photo to be eligible for consideration. We will select the most compelling entry as the winner, and his or her story may be published on the site.

LearnVest Planning Services is a registered investment adviser and subsidiary of LearnVest, Inc., that provides financial plans for its clients. Information shown is for illustrative purposes only and is not intended as investment, legal or tax planning advice. Please consult a financial adviser, attorney or tax specialist for advice specific to your financial situation. LearnVest Planning Services and any third parties listed, linked to or otherwise appearing in this message are separate and unaffiliated and are not responsible for each other’s products, services or policies. LearnVest, Inc. is wholly owned by NM Planning, LLC, a subsidiary of The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company.

  • Karen Smith

    With 4 girls in school back to school shopping is a tradition for us. We always do the majority of our shopping on tax free holiday shopping weekend (sales tax here is as high as 10%). That weekend schools supplies, computers and clothes are tax free.

    I take Friday off because the crowds get crazy on Saturday and Sunday. We spend the entire day shopping. We usually start at Walmart and get many of the supplies there. I use their savings catcher to get auto matching on any prices. We work our way to Target, where I use their red card to get an automatic 5% off (my other credit card is only 2%) and their cartwheel app to snag any digital coupons.

    I also use other apps. Two that I like for back to school shopping are shopkick and receipt hog. Shopkick gives you points towards a variety of gift cards just for walking into stores. They give you even more for capturing UPC codes. Receipt hog gives “coins” for scanning pretty much any receipt towards an Amazon gift card or paypal credit.

  • kathy

    I have a son in college , a girl in middle school and one in pre-k now. Back to school shopping is not costly on my budget. I usually start as soon as early as July and I use a combination of weekly sale circulars and coupons, I match up what’s on sale each week and use coupons to make the sale price even lower. For retail stores I wait for discount off in store and combine that with any additional coupons that I get through mailing or email. For online shopping I start with cash back sites and use the discounts that there are offering online. I also use a lot of apps that give you cash back for buying certain items to lower the cost even more. Around this time of year the coupons, sales and cash back apps are geared for back to school shopping and I save a lot without going overboard. I wish they had coupons for the items that I have to buy from the uniform store.

  • Kara

    I download the school supply list for the next year and when everything goes on clearance at places like Target and Wal-Mart, I go ahead and get the requested items and then just store them til the next year. This year my daughter only had to buy 2 binders!

  • Bryna Ortiz

    I have four boys, in grades ranging from 7th to pre-k. My biggest money saver for back to school supplies is reusing the school supplies from the previous year. When school ends, I go through their book bags and assess the usability of each item. Some items come home unused. I clean scissors, rulers, plastic folders, binders, clip boards, etc. Most items will look new again. I sharpen pencils that are still long enough to hold. I tear out perforated unused pages of notebooks and put in a binder to use as loose leaf. I then go through the marble notebooks: those with only a few pages used, I will save for the new school year and those with lots of pages used, I will cut out the remaining paper to use as note paper (i.e. grocery lists, bus notes). I throw out supplies that can not be re-used. I keep all of the re-usable supplies in a box for the summer. When the school supply lists come out, I allocate used items among the boys per their lists. And then we go shopping for the remaining items. Items that are in the box, but not needed this year, remain in the box for hopeful use the year following.

  • Crystal Nunez

    As a mother of 2 elementary age girls & as a special education teacher, school supplies are always at the forefront of my mind in summer. What I like to do is limit myself and my girls to a short list of “want” and “need” for supplies. Then with that list, we go to the major 3: staples, Office Depot, and Target. I love the penny deals as well as dollar sections. I usually buy enough to last us the entire year as well as some things for the kids’ teachers. The BEST time to save is when school is in session. Stores like Target want to get rid of their back to school section so they clearance items for dirt cheap! Hope that helps!

  • Kelli

    I don’t have children, so back to school isn’t an expense for me. If it was I would use my cash back credit card combined with cash back sites and coupons to save.

  • Anon

    First, I try to get supply lists for each child. For my high schoolers this can get a little difficult, but I use my best guess. Fortunately, some of the wonderful teachers in our district give advance notice of expensive calculators or out of the ordinary needs such as graph composition books. I check through supplies from last year, as I tend to buy extras of crayons and other items the kids tend to go through quickly so I can take them off the list. As soon as the sales start, I look out for sales. Given that most of the stores we go to are 10 miles away, I try to coordinate my purchases with visits to nearby stores. From past experience I try to judge when items will go on sale and which stores will have the best prices. Our office supply store tends to have the best sales, but I keep an eye on the circulars for grocery stores and drugstores as they may have surprisingly good prices. I’ve also learned that cheapest may not always be the way to go. Off-brand scissors, binders and crayons may not do the job, break easily or not give the color the kids want. A cheap binder is fine if it’s not going to be used much, but it may be worth the expense for a good quality one if it’s going to be opened and closed several times a day. If I see something less expensive and it’s worth my time, I have no problem returning an item and purchasing at the better price. Our office supply store had a very generous return policy so I bought a few might need items knowing I could easily return them – their e-mail receipt made it super easy to do so.

  • Daniella

    I usually use Amazon.

  • Whitney

    Definitely Amazon

  • mjicha

    I actually don’t have children yet so I don’t technically have any back-to-school shopping, i use this time to stock up on office supplies. As a full-time, work-from-home copywriter, most of my needed supplies are the same as school supplies: pens, pencils, white out, erasers, notebooks, folders, notebooks, highlighters, and, oh yeah, more notebooks. I take advantage of back-to-school deals at Target and air those savings with savings available through their app Cartwheel. Finally, i get a final 5% off by paying using my Target credit card, which I pay off in full every month.

  • Sandra Schwartz

    My kids are grown now. However, I had several ways to save money at the school season (or prior too). I would put aside a certain amount of money from my income tax return check to go towards school supplies, clothes etc. In addition, throughout the Spring and Summer I would stock up on school supplies they may need. I would also go through what we already had or pass down leftover supplies from the oldest to the youngest. Sometimes when you buy in bulk it is cheaper, so I would go in with friends who also had school age kids and split the items. We would share the bill and the items. I would also watch for sales whether it is school clothes or supplies.

  • sasha payne

    I try to use Flipp app to find best prices and then ad match and use coupons when I can to get the best prices on school supplies

  • Whitney

    I have 2 children in elementary school. The school they attend publishes the supply list mid-summer, so I was able to shop at the beginning of August. The school supply section is a mad house the closer you get to the start of school and I want to avoid that at all cost. I print the list and compare to what the kids brought home at the end of the previous school year. This time I needed to get everything on the list, as we did not have any hold overs. I took a quick peek at the prices at Wal-Mart before I went to the Dollar Store. I purchased all but a few things for $36 (for both kids). I then went directly to Wal-Mart and picked up the additional items. I was able to check everything off the list for $60. I consider this a big win as I spent $120.00 for my oldest when she went into First grade.
    I started a monthly budget that includes sports and lesson fees and I set aside that money, even in the summer, so that it is a fixed amount for me to work with.
    School clothes are another matter entirely. I have been on the receiving end of second hand clothes for both my girls. I pass the generosity and share our hand me downs with other families. My family is very good about gifting clothing items to the kids, which saves me from a large clothing buy at the beginning of the school year. This year, I will only need to purchase a pair of tennis shoes for my oldest. I found a pair on sale for $15.00.
    $75.00 for 2016/2017 Back-to-School expenses. Success.

  • NM

    Four kids – one in high school (14), two in middle school (12 and 11), one in elementary school (9).

    1. Verify if we have any items on the supply lists already.

    2. For what remains on the “still needed” list, I shop the Dollar Store, Family Dollar, Big Lots and Wal-Mart. These stores have been a godsend – savings reach up to 90% over retail at leading office supply stores.

    3. Higher-ticket items (electronics, etc.) yield us better pricing with Amazon and Ebay.

    4. Make-ahead meals that I freeze in portion sizes save us tremendous amounts of money and time, especially during busy school nights. One favorite is lasagna. (As a treat, I also freeze individual cookie portions that can be baked on an as-desired basis. )

    5. For extra homework help, tutoring can be a budget-buster. Our local library system has an online Skype-type video- based tutoring program with live help from remote, qualified educators who are rated with real-time feedback from other patrons. This service is free of charge for our district.

  • Vanessa Wilkins

    favorite way to save money is cooking at home instead of going out to eat!

  • Lori Mc

    My money saving tip is that I use both Walgreens and CVS as GREAT ways to save lots of money on school supplies. I stack sales, manufacturer and store coupons as well as follow the seasons. In addition, both stores issue periodic 25% off anything not on sale. I then take my manufacturer coupons to purchase those things I need now but are not on sale. Right now and a bit earlier, I started watching for back to school sales and here is some of what I have purchased: 2 pack Uniball #207 pens for .99/pak; pilot V5 2 pack extra fine pens for .99/pak; sharpies for .49/ea; lined paper for .05/100 sheets, folders 7/$1.00, blank lined notebooks .05/each, binders .99, Elmers glue for free & .5 profit; 10 oz Skin sensitive saving cream (for college) for .73 ea. and lots more. In addition, I have several apps on my phone that give me additional savings by sending pics of my receipts showing the purchases. I get emails from both on Friday for the next sale and this allows me to see if something I need has become even cheaper the following week.