10 smart ways to save on school supplies

Back-to-school shopping doesn’t have to break the bank. With a little planning and a few tips and tricks, your school supplies will be a real steal!

As summer begins to draw to a close and new school year quick approaches, as well as the all-too-familiar stress of back-to-school shopping. New backpacks, trendy clothes, stylish binders, bento lunch boxes – not only can all the choices be overwhelming, they add up quickly too. That’s why we’ve rounded up the best ways to save money and keep your cool while shopping for school essentials for your kids.

1. Make a shopping list and set a budget

The first step is to figure out what your kids really need — and don’t need — for the new school year. Work together to create a list of all the supplies that are essential, as well as those that are just “needs.” To get started, check the list of school supplies provided by your child’s teacher (if applicable) and check out our printable school supplies checklist. From there, think about how your budget lines up with the list. Prioritize the essential, of course; you can then start adding items from the optional list. Kids can even contribute to their budget if they have loonies and toonies stashed in their piggy bank. It’s a great way to get them to know the value of money!

2. Do an inventory scan

Before you start making any actual purchases, do a sweep of your house. Check your closets, storage bins, art supplies, and even last year’s school bags for any extra supplies you may have. It’s a great idea to reuse and recycle what you already have before buying new supplies. With all the treasures you find, consider spending the last days of summer crafting with the kids. Fish pencil cases, watermelon t-shirts, paint-splattered sneakers, the possibilities are endless. Click here for ideas and instructions.

3. Trade with friends

You’ve completed your inventory, but don’t rush to the mall just yet. Instead, head to the homes of your neighbors and friends. Although it may seem unusual, planning a swap party with other parents can save a lot of waste. Gather the items you have and know that your kids won’t use or trade with other parents who might have the supplies you’re looking for. Friends, neighbors, and even family members may also have clothes that no longer fit their children but would look great on yours. Think of it as an exchange shopping spree!

4. Shop the sales

Once you’ve exhausted all your recycling efforts, it’s time to hit the stores, but don’t just make impromptu trips to the nearest stores. Instead, be prepared for these inventive back-to-school deals and do your research to find out which ones are really worth it. Flip through flyers, browse their websites, and keep tabs on major social media feeds – a little prep work can save a lot of dollars!

5. Price matching

In addition to sales, many stores have strong price matching policies. canadian tire, Staples and others will match competitors’ offerings or even beat the price by a penny. So if you see any variances from store to store, you can often find the most convenient and still get all the deals. Don’t forget to check the price match guidelines (for example, if this should happen before purchase or if the products should have the same model number). As always there are exceptions to the rule, some retailers allow customers to match the price of a previously purchased product within a certain time frame. Ka-ching!

6. Price adjustment

Similar to price matching, many big box stores will refund the difference on a recently reduced item as long as the product was originally purchased at full retail price and a receipt is provided. Think Children’s place, Old Navy, walmart and The hole. Just keep in mind that the request is usually confirmed if the initial purchase was made within a certain number of days. Children’s Place, for example, will only refund if the item has been discounted within seven days of the original purchase. Guidelines for price adjustments vary from store to store, so always review their policy and save those receipts!

7. Look for promotions and special coupons

Using coupons and taking advantage of special promotions is another great way to save on supplies. You can totally unleash your inner extreme couponer – we won’t judge! – by browsing newspapers, magazines, social media and websites. Online resources like Save.ca and retailmenot.ca allow you to search for offers from specific stores and brands. Let your fingers do the work and get those printers inked and ready! For online shopping, you can use a browser extension like Dearwhich automatically finds and applies discounts before you process your transaction (and it’s totally free!).

8. Don’t skip the dollar store

Dollar stores are great for stocking up on pens, pencils, erasers, and highlighters, among other things. Not only that, but they are also practical and an affordable option for tight budgets. Shopping stores like Dollarama and Dollar Tree often mean grabbing a few stationary treat packs for the same price as just one at competitors. And be sure to check out our list of things you should always buy at Dollarama.

9. Visit thrift stores

Just like chatting with friends, recycled clothes and accessories is an excellent alternative to buying new products. While there are chain thrift stores like Value Village, Plato’s Closet, and Once Upon a Child all across Canada, you might also consider visiting smaller neighborhood thrift stores for cool, unique pieces. Avoid second-hand sneakers and other everyday shoes, as they fit every child’s feet and can carry fungus, such as athlete’s foot and warts.

10. Buy online

You can often buy in bulk and save money (not to mention the hassle of zigzagging around town) when shopping online. Amazon is great for affordable school supplies and often offers free shipping. Beware of offers that seem too good to be true, they often are! So read reviews and do thorough research on new sites, products, and sellers before making any purchases. Coupons can also be applied to online purchases, so be sure to scour the internet for special savings or consider using browser extensions and discount sites like Rakuten.

With these tips and tricks, you’re ready for the back-to-school shopping frenzy. Remember, it’s always better to start early than to wait until the last minute, so get out there and gather those school supplies. You understood everything !

This article was originally published online in August 2019.

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