The new school year is just around the corner, which means it’s also time to start shopping for school supplies. When you’re on a budget, coming up with the money to pay for binders, notebooks, and backpacks can be difficult. And growing supply requirements can put a real strain on families. According to the National Retail Federation, the average family with children in grades K-12 plans to spend $673.57 on school supplies, clothing, and shoes for the new school year.
The good news is there are ways you can reduce your spending, while also getting everything you need. Here are six ways you can save on school supplies. (See also: Best Credit Cards to Use for Back to School Savings)
1. Shop your home
You likely have supplies stashed around your home you’ve forgotten about. Shopping your own home first can prevent you from buying unnecessary supplies.
Set up a large bin or designate a corner for school supplies. Work with the rest of your family to check drawers, closets, and under beds for pens, rulers, or backpacks. Pile everything into the designated section. Then go through your children’s classroom requirements and check off what you already own. (See also: 4 Effortless Ways to Save on Back-to-School Shopping)
2. Work with your child to set a budget
Kids often love the idea of new things, whether it’s clothes or a new lunch box. But replacing everything might not be possible within your budget. Instead, sit down with your child and have them create their own budget. Tell them how much they have to spend and explain that when that amount is gone, they cannot buy anymore. It can be a helpful way to rein in spending. For example, if your children love clothes, you can remind them of the budget when they want the sparkly purple notebook that is three times the price of a plain one. A budget can help them decide where they want to splurge, and where they are willing to cut back.
If the budget has wiggle room, it can also be an opportunity to teach your child about work and pay. Perhaps you can set up a list of chores and payments for each one. As they complete chores, you add some extra money to their school budget.
3. Split costs with another family
Buying in bulk can help you save a great deal on supplies, but finding a place to store the extra materials can be tricky. Instead, try connecting with another family with a child in your kid’s class. If you don’t know anyone, many schools have class-specific Facebook groups where you can connect with other parents. You can buy supplies like paper, pens, markers, and crayons and then split the cost with them. Everybody wins. (See also: 6 Back-to-School Shopping Hacks for Big Savings)
4. Take advantage of dollar stores
Dollar stores can be a stellar budget saver when money is tight. You can purchase everything from notebooks to protractors for a dollar (or less). Depending on the store, there may be special deals as well from limited shipments, such as brand-name markers and crayons. You can start your back-to-school shopping at a dollar store, and then shop at other retailers for the rest of the supplies.
5. Use coupons
Coupons can reduce your expenses, and with the internet, it’s easier than ever to find relevant promotions. Use sites like RetailMeNot or CouponSherpa to find discounts at stores like Staples, Target, or Kohl’s. Those sites collect all coupons across the web, so you can find the ones you need and use them on the spot.
And by installing browser extensions like Honey, you can shop leisurely online while the extension finds applicable coupon codes for you. (See also: These Apps and Extensions Find Online Deals for You — Automatically)
6. Shop with discounted gift cards
Shopping with discounted gift cards can be a smart way to save a significant amount of money. People who received cards as a gift, or received store credit for a return might decide that they don’t have any use for it. Rather than let it sit in a drawer, they can sell it to sites like Gift Card Granny, Raise and Gift Card Zen, who then offer these gift cards at a discount.
Depending on the retailer and the amount on the card, the savings can be huge. For example, if your family needs new clothes, you could score a $500 gift card for $440, and that extra $60 could go a long way. When you’re on a limited budget, discounted gift cards can help stretch your money to the max.