Genius Swaps That Will Save You BIG on Back-to-School Shopping
Feeling daunted by a long list of school supplies? Get everything on the list for less with a few smart tricks and trades.
Opt for last year’s model over something new
f you’re splurging on a computer or tablet for your student, remember: You don’t need all the latest bells and whistles to do web research and write papers. A refurbished or older model could serve just as well (and make it less painful if the computer gets lost, stolen, or broken). Don’t miss these 10 hilarious back-to-school photos that every parent can relate to.
Trade in top-shelf brands for generics
In most cases, it’s a negligible difference between the big-name brands and no-name discount school supplies. This is a great place to save on school supplies that kids tend to use up quickly, like crayons, glue, and tissues. Plus, try one of these teacher-approved tricks for getting your child ahead this school year.
Splurge on products that last vs. flimsier versions
Backpacks, lunch boxes, pencil cases, and pencil sharpeners are among the products you might be able to buy once and use for multiple years. “Invest in quality backpacks that will last for more than one school season,” says Ellie Kay, best-selling author of 15 books and founder of heroesathome.org, which provides free financial education to military members. “Get these a couple weeks after school starts, when they go on sale for as much as 70 percent off in local office supply stores and discount department stores.” (Use or borrow a hand-me-down to get through the first few weeks.)
Choose reusable lunch gear instead of paper and plastic
Paper napkins and plastic utensils may seem cheaper from the get-go, but replenishing them for daily use gets expensive—fast. Swap them out for cloth napkins, reusable bags and containers, and real flatware (or durable plastic or bamboo versions designed for repeated use). You’ll save the planet, save your wallet—and add an extra dose of swank to your child’s lunch. Here are more ways to save money on your child’s lunch.
Get digitized textbooks instead of paper versions
Invest in a tablet and have your child opt for digitized college textbooks, which often come at a significant discount over printed copies. (Bonus: You’ll save your child from back pain from lugging all those books around campus at the same time.)
Buy in bulk, rather than smaller packages
For staples that you’ll know your child will need year after year—pencils, pens, paper—buy big and stash the extras for future school years—or split a big order of discount school supplies with a few fellow parents, to simplify everyone’s shopping. Here are the 12 things your school bus driver wants you to know.
Skip the pricey pre-made lunch kits and DIY it
Prepackaged lunch kits may simplify lunch-packing duty, but they cost way more than buying your own lunch meat, crackers and cheese, and fruit, and building a “lunchable” kit of your own. Add these healthy foods to boost your child’s brain power at school.
Recycle paper bags or wallpaper as book covers, instead of buying book socks
Brown paper bags or old wallpaper can be even better at protecting textbooks from wear and tear—and are probably lurking around your house right now. Better still, they’re perfect for decorating, so you also get a fun craft project out of the deal. Check out the secret habits of straight-A students that you can try with your own kid.
Consider the hand-me-down value
If you have more than one child, decide whether the gear you buy can be handed down: Some sporting equipment and other school supplies can often be reused. “If you have multiple children who will be using the same electronic devices in subsequent years, then it pays to invest in quality,” Kay says. “We had students who did algebra and then their younger siblings had the same course, so we passed down the calculators to stretch our savings.”