The 5 Best Places to Get Deals on School Supplies

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As every parent knows, sending kids back to school every fall doesn’t come cheap. Between supplies, clothing and electronics, the bill is more than $800 per year per family for children in K-12 and about $1,200 for households with college students, according to the National Retail Federation.

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Saving money on this tab — at least the non-clothing part — requires effort to shop around and follow deals from store to store. Start by checking out the weekly flyers posted on the store’s website or app to see the best buys in town.

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“The worst and most expensive way to do your back-to-school shopping is to walk into a store and knock it all out all at once,” said Kyle James, father of three and founder of

“Why? Well, you might find a few items on sale, but you’ll have to pay full price for a lot of other things. Instead, start looking at sales flyers now and when you see good bargains on items on your child’s back-to-school list, walk in and make the purchase. By starting early, you’ll have plenty of time to shop only when the price is right.”

Here are five of the best stops to make on your back-to-school quest.

The best places to get deals on school supplies

Office supply stores

If you need a spiral notebook in February for a school project, your local Office Depot/OfficeMax or Staples office isn’t your best bet. But in the weeks leading up to the start of the school year, run for it.

The same is true if you want to purchase items such as #2 pencils, composition notebooks, notebook paper, erasers, and binders. For those items, look to office supply stores, which sprinkle deeply discounted school items — as well as sales on even pricier items, like backpacks — among regular-priced merchandise from the whole store.

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Take these one-subject spiral notebooks, for example. Before the first bell rings for the new school year, you can usually buy five or six from Staples for the price you’d pay for one the rest of the year.

Now you’ll find the best deals of the year on supplies such as children’s pencils, rulers, pencil boxes and scissors, which could be 80% off and cost as little as 50 cents.

Before the school year, download the apps from your local office supply stores or visit their websites to sign up and receive email alerts about savings or even a discount coupon for signing up. A 30% off coupon on regular-priced merchandise, for example, could help you save money on items that are rarely discounted in stores.

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Big box stores

Target and Walmart, absolutely, are places to turn to cross off items from your kids’ supply list. Like office supply stores, they sell loss leaders — think a quarter for pencils and glue sticks — and sell other basics like markers and folders at the cheapest prices around. ‘year.

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These stores, however, have a big advantage over office supply chains. You’ll find the tissue boxes, storage bags, disinfectant wipes, baby wipes, and hand sanitizers that make up supply lists these days, and both stores accept coupons from manufacturers. Also, download the Target app to take advantage of Target Circle specials for big savings. In August, you might find a coupon, say, for $10 off a $50 purchase in store. That’s a 20% savings right off the bat.

And both stores are also banking on you browsing other aisles while you’re there, browsing the clothing department to buy, at a minimum, essentials like socks, underwear and shoes for the New Year. university.

Listings change frequently, so be sure to check flyers and store apps for updated offers.

Groceries and pharmacies

Your local supermarket, as well as national drugstore chains, will put a handful of back-to-school items on sale this summer. You can find a two-pack of highlighters for $1 or makeup books for 50 cents, but these stores shouldn’t be your first stop if you’re looking for a bargain on supplies. Still, when shopping, it’s worth strolling through the aisles. You might find something you missed in other stores.

Stores like CVS may run a back-to-school promotion, such as a $10 savings when you spend $40 on certain supplies. While a $10 break still sounds appealing, you’ll likely be spending much less than $40 on similar merchandise at other stores.

dollar stores

When your child needs a pack of index cards in December, make the dollar store your first stop. Dollar stores mostly sell the basics – pens, pencils, glue and the like – and you can find them cheaper in back-to-school deals elsewhere. For a spiral notebook, for example, even $1 is too expensive at this time of year when office supplies and big-box stores sell them for less than half. But when the sales are over, that $1 price tag for the laptop will sound great.


Don’t forget outlet stores like Costco and Sam’s Club for some of the more expensive items on your list. You might find a deal on a branded backpack, for example, that stores are offering as a special buy for August. Or, you might find great deals on that expensive graphing calculator or tablet your older kids need.

Some tips

Don’t rush to finish shopping for supplies when the school year begins, James said. After the first day of school, your child can go home with a list of extra supplies they’ll need later, like a project board for a science presentation.

If you can wait to buy these items, you can take advantage of the back-to-school clearance deals that happen every September,” he said. “I’m talking 75% to 90% off items that retailers desperately need to dump to make room for Halloween candy and costumes.”

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