Back-to-school shopping deals for clothes, food, gear &more

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Believe it or not, it’s time to start thinking about back-to-school shopping! No matter how well your kids care for their gear, they always need more for the coming school year. Toss in the long lists from the school and the fact that the kids are growing like weeds, and there’s a lot to buy. Here’s a list of stellar school essentials to help your kids start the school year off right.

 

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Generation Joy ($18 and up)

This mom-designed apparel brand for boys and girls has clever features, like grow-with-me reversible leggings for girls, and joggers with adjustable waistbands and reinforced knees for boys. The tagless designs feature fabrics that are soft and comfortable, with lots of fun patterns and colors to choose from.

French Toast ($15 and up)

You probably know French Toast as a go-to brand for sturdy and functional apparel for schools with dress codes. This month, they are launching an adaptive-wear clothing line with design tweaks to help kids with disabilities dress themselves. The pieces are comfortable, tagless, and soft for all-day wear. The assortment will soon be available on the French Toast website, as well as on Amazon, Kohl’s, and Walmart.

 

PatPat GONeat Collection ($15 and up)

This new apparel line is made with Sorona fabric, which is breathable, stain-resistant, waterproof, and sustainably made from plants.  The collection is available in both plain styles and graphic styles and there are sizes for everyone in the family from babies to grownups who like to twin with their kids.

 

Stitchfix for kids (prices vary)

If your kids don’t really know what their style is or don’t enjoy shopping, Stitchfix will help guide them with an engaging style quiz. Once the quiz is completed, suggestions in your preferred price point will be offered up for approval. You only pay for what your kids keep!

 

Build-a-Card Personalized Visa or Master Card by GiftCardGranny* (prices vary)

If your kids are older, give them a gift card and let them shop for themselves. You can upload a fun photo and personalized message and the kids will have a blast shopping with them! Hopefully, they will be savvy shoppers and look for sales and use coupons so they can get the biggest bang for their buck. Or, they may blow their budget on a couple of pricey, designer things. Either way, it’s an excellent teaching opportunity!

BACKPACKS & LUNCH BAGS

Sierra Designs Yuba Pass Backpack ($49.95)

These sturdy, expandable bags come in four colors and have a 25-liter capacity, dual water bottle sleeves, plenty of protective pockets, padded straps with reflectors, and gear loops. I like this backpack for older kids because of its generous size and its ability to also be used as a day pack for hiking or overnight trips.

Highlights Backpacks ($49.99)

For the younger set, these backpacks from Highlights are designed to fit smaller bodies but have plenty of room to stash all their must-haves for school. The backpacks have empowering messages, hidden games, exterior pockets for water and quick-grab items, an interior pocket, padded straps with reflectors, and gear loops. They are available in a variety of designs and come with a pack of sticker patches that kids can use to personalize their bag. Matching lunch bags, pencil cases, and water bottles are also available.

Funkins Insulated Lunch Bags ($22.95 and up)

This mom-founded brand makes eco-friendly and durable lunch bags in a wide variety of designs using low-impact, non-toxic dyes, and fabrics that are CPSIA-compliant and free of lead and phthalates.  The Lunch Bags are made with stain- and water-resistant neoprene, which expands when needed and collapses when not in use. And they are washable! Coordinating cloth napkins and placemats are also available.

 

 

 

In 2021, back-to-school shopping cost an average of $498, and one in three parents of school-aged children said that they would go into debt to be able to afford supplies.

 

Fortunately, there are ways to save on essential items. Here are 31 back-to-school shopping tips that will save you money this school year and beyond.

 

RelatedTop budgeting tips for single parents

 

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You might receive weekly circulars in the mail that include coupons to local stores that can help you save money on school supplies. If you don’t receive any circulars or you want more, using a website like Flipp can give you access to digital circulars and coupons you can use at the store.

 

 

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The Honey browser extension is helpful when it comes to back-to-school savings. Installing Honey on your web browser will enable the extension to automatically search for coupon codes and deals when you check out online, saving you both time and money.

 

 

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Some websites, such as Coupons.com, RetailMeNot and Savings.com, offer online coupons. Browsing these sites may lead to savings on school supplies you need.

 

 

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Doing back-to-school shopping at Target will let you earn rewards through Target Circle. You can access hundreds of deals as well as earn 1% back when you shop (or 5% back when you shop with your Target RedCard). Then, you can redeem your savings on later purchases.

 

 

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Making school-supply purchases with a cash-back credit card is another option to save some money. Then, you can put your savings towards future purchases or use the cashback to pay a portion of your credit card bill.

 

 

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On sites like Rakuten and Swagbucks, you can earn cash back when you shop at your favorite stores. Check these sites for cash back offers before heading out for back-to-school shopping.

 

 

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If there are a few stores you know you’re going to be shopping at this year, then sign up for their email list ahead of time to receive coupons and find out when they are running sales. Some stores offer a percent-off coupon or a dollar-amount discount for signing up for their emails or texts.

 

 

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Along with signing up for emails, you can also download store apps to receive exclusive savings and deal alerts. You may receive a one-time coupon at the beginning and then additional deals after that.

 

 

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If you have friends who aren’t using their old supplies anymore, they may be willing to give them to you so they don’t go to waste. This could save you a lot of money, especially when it comes to paying for college textbooks.

 

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Consider joining local parent groups on Facebook or other social media platforms to see if anyone is giving away supplies or selling them at a steep discount. Connecting with other parents before the first day of school can also be a good way to form friendships and trade back-to-school shopping tips.

 

 

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You may also be able to find the supplies you need on used goods marketplaces such as Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist. Keep safety precautions in mind when meeting strangers to complete a transaction: consider meeting at a police station, bring someone with you and trust your instincts if you feel the situation is unsafe.

 

 

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Your children are not going to need all of their school supplies on the first day or perhaps even in the first month of school. Instead, you can ask your children’s teachers what they will need right away and then wait to shop for the rest of the supplies when retailers start marking down their inventory, which typically happens in September or October.

 

 

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Before setting foot into a store, come up with a back-to-school monthly budget so you know exactly how much you can spend and avoid impulse purchases. Without a plan, it can be easy to spend too much and get caught off guard when you get your credit card statement in the mail.

 

 

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You may already have what you need for back to school in your home. Look around for extra pencils, art supplies, books and other items that you thought you needed to purchase but may already own.

 

 

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One of the old tricks for sticking to a budget and saving money is to pay with cash instead of a debit or credit card. Paying with cash may make you more mindful of your purchases because you see the cash disappear when you spend it. You might not be tempted to spend as much if you opt for good, old-fashioned dollar bills and coins.

 

 

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Cash is also helpful for negotiating. Though you may not be able to negotiate prices at a big-box store, you might be able to at a local shop, flea market or yard sale if that’s where you’re headed for school supplies. Let the merchant know how much you’re willing to pay, and they may just be willing to cut a deal with you.

 

 

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Some stores will match another store’s price if you show them that their competitor is offering a better price on the same product. Prior to going to the store, take a few minutes to compare prices online, and bring proof of the lower price when you shop. Price matching policies vary from store to store and can usually be found on a store’s website.

 

 

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When it comes to how to save on school supplies, you may be able to save big if you buy in bulk from warehouse stores like Costco or Sam’s Club. Some of the best things to buy in bulk for back-to-school include pens and pencils, folders and notebooks.

 

Bulk purchases of things like paper towels, toilet paper and shampoo might also make good financial sense. Joining other parents to split costs on bulk purchases might just result in a new, like-minded friend group.

 

 

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If you need to pick up electronics like laptops, tablets, or phones, consider buying a refurbished version instead of a new device. Certified used models are often available directly from the manufacturer or from reputable online sellers.

 

 

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While the dollar store isn’t the ideal place for all your back-to-school shopping needs, you can find a number of inexpensive items there to save money on. These items include pencils, pens, crayons, folders and clipboards.

 

 

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Some states hold annual tax-free days, usually in July or August, which is perfect for back-to-school shopping. Check online to see if and when your state offers this money-saving option. Even if it’s too late for this year, you can find out when tax-free days are near you and take note for next year!

 

 

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College students may be able to use their college ID or student email address to score discounts on electronics and other items. Check out stores around your college that offer deals to students.

 

 

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Another way to score some back-to-school savings is to purchase used textbooks. BookFinder.com searches all the bookseller websites to find the best deals on your textbooks.

 

 

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If you keep your receipts and find out that items you purchased have been discounted further, then you may be able to get a price adjustment or a partial refund to make up for the price difference. Policies vary by retailer, but it doesn’t hurt to check sales after you’ve made a purchase and ask the store if they offer price adjustments.

 

 

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Thrift stores like Goodwill or Salvation Army often have back-to-school essentials like clothing and backpacks. Plus, buying used items can be environmentally friendly. Families who are facing financial difficulty affording school supplies may qualify for assistance through various charitable organizations, such as The Salvation Army or even local school districts.

 

 

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By following brands on social media or contacting them directly, you may get free samples or promo codes to get discounts on goods.

 

 

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Sometimes, you won’t be able to access back-to-school savings at the time of purchase. Instead, you’ll need to send in rebates. Look for products that offer rebates and remember to keep your receipts and anything else required for the savings.

 

 

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While you may want to buy everything at discount stores, poor-quality items may not even last an entire school year. For items that get a lot of use, such as a backpack, consider paying a bit more so they last. For example, you may be able to use the same high-quality, well-made backpack for several years before it wears out.

 

 

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Your child might really want a backpack with a specific character on it, but next year’s favorite character will probably be different. Buying your child a plain backpack and then adding some keychains or stickers that feature their favorite character is an inexpensive compromise that will keep your kids happy and save you big bucks.

 

 

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While plastic and paper bags may be convenient, you’ll save much more money (and the environment) if you buy a reusable lunch bag and containers instead.

Find a lunch bag that’s easy to clean to save time as well.

 

 

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Kids quickly grow out of clothes, so it’s not budget-friendly to buy a lot of expensive new garments. You can invite over some friends and neighbors who have kids and swap used clothing instead.

 

 

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Taking some pre-shopping time to estimate costs is a good practice when trying to figure out how to save on school supplies. Setting a financial goal and saving a little bit at a time is a good thing to do whether the goal is purchasing school supplies or something a little more expensive.

 

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This article originally appeared on SoFi.comand was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

 

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Trae Bodge

Trae Bodge is an accomplished lifestyle journalist and TV commentator who specializes in smart shopping, personal finance, parenting, and retail. Trae has been named a Top Voice in Retail by LinkedIn and a top personal finance expert by GoBankingRates and Flexjobs. She is a contributor at Millie Magazine and CNN Underscored, and her writing and expert commentary have appeared in Newsweek, Woman's Day, Forbes, USNews.com, Kiplinger, Marketwatch, MSN.com, Yahoo Finance and numerous others. She has also appeared on TV hundreds of times; including Good Morning America's GMA3: What You Need to Know, NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, Inside Edition, CNBC and local network affiliates nationwide.