Back to School

Smart Back To School Shopping Tips that Save Money

Money Saving Back To School Shopping Tips | www.TheHeavyPurse.comThe stores are filled with shiny new school supplies and my inbox and mailbox are stuffed with flyers promoting all the must-have items for the school year. It can be a bit overwhelming, which makes it easy to overspend. It took us a few tries but now the girls and I are seasoned vets when it comes to managing our back-to-school budget. In fact, it’s something we look forward to doing, rather than dreading.

Your Back-To-School Survival Guide

Here are some new and old tips to help you survive the back-to-school shopping season this year.

Take Advantage of Tax-Free Back-To-School Shopping

Every summer a select few states hold sales-tax holidays on school items from notebooks to laptops. If you are fortunate to live in one of those states, which sadly I do not, be sure to time your back-to-school shopping excursion to take advantage of this special discount.

  1. Alabama: August 7-9
  2. Connecticut: August 16-22
  3. Iowa: August 7-8
  4. Florida: August 7-16
  5. Louisiana: August 7-8
  6. Maryland: August 9-15
  7. Massachusetts: August 15-16*
  8. Missouri: August 7-9
  9. New Mexico: August 7-9
  10. Ohio: August 7-9
  11. Oklahoma: August 7-9
  12. South Carolina: August 7-9
  13. Tennessee: August 7-9
  14. Texas: August 7-9
  15. Virginia: August 7-9

*Massachusetts State Legislature has not yet approved the sales tax holiday, although it is expected to do so, but double-check first.

There are certain limits set by each State, so be sure to confirm what you can and cannot buy in your own state before you go shopping.

3 Ways to Save on School Supplies This Year

A few suggestions to help you keep more of your hard-earned dollars in your pocket.

1. Host a Back-To-School Swap Party

If you’re like me, even when you carefully follow a list, you still end-up with a closet full of excess school supplies. Often times you can use them the following year, but sometimes your kids outgrow the supplies, not to mention their clothes. This is a great way to exchange new school supplies and gently used clothes with friends. Get a group of friends together who have kids of all ages, so everyone has a chance to both clean out closets and fill them with new-to-them things. You may even be lucky enough to take care of all or most of your back-to-school needs without even stepping into a store or spending a dollar.

2. Utilize Money Saving Apps to Increase Savings

Tanya shared some great money saving apps for groceries, retail and travel last week, and you definitely want to take advantage of them while you do your back-to-school shopping. A few additional apps to consider are:

3. Ask for a Price Match

I’m a big believer in comparison shopping and finding compromises, but you do need to be mindful that your quest for the lowest price doesn’t end up costing you in both gas and time. Now you may need to visit a handful of stores to get everything you need, but whenever possible, ask for a price match versus running to another store for one item. Most stores, especially your big-box retailers, will honor your request with no fuss, which saves you both time and money so don’t be shy and ask for the price match.

Other Money-Saving Back-To-School Shopping Tips

I’ve written quite a few posts on back to school shopping and instead of repeating myself, I’m just going to highlight two posts. But first, I want to make sure you are familiar with my best advice: let your kids manage their back-to-school budget. You don’t need to do everything yourself. This is a fabulous teachable moment for them and something I’ve done with my girls for years. We learn so much every year, and best of all — the girls are becoming budget pro’s who know how to maximize their money.

[one-half-first] Back To School Shopping Teachable Money Moments |
[/one-half-first][one-half]Back To School Giving: Learning to Share Freely |


Click on the images to go to the post.

Donate to Demonstrate Sharing

This is not a money-saving tip, but a chance to give back and share your good fortune. Sharing or giving is a core family value in our home and back-to-school shopping is another opportunity to demonstrate giving and to help families who are struggling. The girls look forward to going through their closets and selecting clothes for the donation box. They love knowing their favorite outfits that no longer fit will be squealed over and proudly worn by other young girls.

Consider contacting your school or place of worship to find out if there are any families you can help and offer to purchase their supplies for the school year. Make sure to involve your kids too. Most of us are blessed to be in a position where we can purchase both needed items and a few wants as well. It’s a good reminder for kids, especially if they struggle with those keep-up urges, to appreciate what they have and reduce feelings of entitlement.

Have you completed your back-to-school shopping yet? What tips or suggestions do you have?


August 3, 2015  •  23 Comments  •  Back to School

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  1. Monday, August 3rd, 2015
    I love that you included the tax-free days! We were just talking about that at work. I don't have much use for it, but I'm spreading the word to all my mom friends and families.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Sunday, August 9th, 2015
      I'm sure all your Mom friends appreciated you telling them about tax-free back-to-school holidays. It can really make a difference!
  2. Monday, August 3rd, 2015
    We were on the same page today! I love the idea of a back to school swap party. That's a new idea I should test out. Colorado doesn't have tax free weekend, but we'll probably slip across the border to New Mexico to hit up Target for the things left on our list. I'd almost rater drive a bit than go to Walmart anyway.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Sunday, August 9th, 2015
      We don't have a tax-free holiday either, unfortunately. It's nice though that you can drive to New Mexico and enjoy their tax-free holiday! Let me know how the back-to-school swap party turns out if you try it. It sounds like a fun way to celebrate back-to-school and save money.
  3. Monday, August 3rd, 2015
    I love the idea of a back to school swap party!! We actually do a really good job of preserving as much as we can from the previous school year so that we can re-use it for the next. If you buy quality items like backpacks, lunch boxes, etc. then you can reuse them and won't need to buy new ones every year.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Sunday, August 9th, 2015
      Every year as part of our back-to-school ritual, we take a look at what supplies we have leftover that we can reuse too. And yes, buying quality means you don't have to replace every year, which saves money in long run, even if you pay more upfront.
  4. Monday, August 3rd, 2015
    Timely post for me since my kiddo will be heading off to kindergarten! Hopefully they don't need too much this first year :) *crossing fingers*
    • Shannon Ryan
      Sunday, August 9th, 2015
      Such an exciting time, Mackenzie! They generally don't need too much for kindergarten but Mom will need to be sure she has a stash of Kleenexes on hand. :)
  5. Monday, August 3rd, 2015
    I like the swap idea. We always have extra supplies from years past lying around.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Sunday, August 9th, 2015
      We do too. And sometimes we can reuse them but some supplies the kids outgrow too. We often donate those supplies but a swap party is a great way to trade supplies and save money at the same time.
  6. Monday, August 3rd, 2015
    I just bought school supplies for 1st grade and preschool this past weekend. It was expensive! Fortunately, that should be all the supplies I need to buy this year!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Sunday, August 9th, 2015
      Your youngest is starting pre-school - how fun for her! It is expensive but like you said - it's one time a year that we need to buy these things - fingers crossed!
  7. Tuesday, August 4th, 2015
    We just had our tax free, back to school shopping this past weekend. We were too busy to go. But I'm OK with that because the crowds on that weekend are kinda nuts.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Sunday, August 9th, 2015
      I bet they are crazy! I'll keep that in mind when I'm wishing we had a sales-tax free back-to-school shopping weekend. :)
  8. Tuesday, August 4th, 2015
    Food banks tend to also accept/distribute school supplies. And you forgot one of the most important ways to save: loss leaders. Staples, OfficeMax, Walmart, et al have packs of pencils for 5 cents, notebook paper or notebooks for 25 cents and so on.

    Again, great stuff to donate.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Sunday, August 9th, 2015
      Thanks for the suggestion to donate to Food banks, another great option.
  9. Wednesday, August 5th, 2015
    I will definitely wait for Aug 7 to 9! By the way, I am browsing Shopsavvy and have found great deals on school supplies. Thanks for these tips Shannon.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Sunday, August 9th, 2015
      Lucky you that you can take advantage of tax-free back to school weekend. Shopsavvy has lots of great deals, which can definitely help save you money.
  10. Wednesday, August 5th, 2015
    Great tips Shannon! I don't have kids, but I still use some of these ideas to save on any office supplies I'm running low on during this time of year.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Sunday, August 9th, 2015
      Good point, Kayla. Even those without kids should take advantage of the back-to-school sales to restock their home office.
  11. Thursday, August 6th, 2015
    This is a major score for moms! Thanks for putting this together for us and sharing these suggestions Shannon. I love the idea of swap party!

    Our tax-free weekend starts tomorrow..I'll definitely be hitting the sales but in the early morning to beat the rush :).

    Hope all is well Shannon! Take care :).

    • Shannon Ryan
      Sunday, August 9th, 2015
      I bet the crowds are crazy but getting up early should hopefully help you avoid them. :) I'm doing great and I hope you are too, Cori!
  12. Thursday, August 13th, 2015
    back to school season is perhaps one of the seasons that every parent that has school going children would not want to reach. All of a sudden, school necessities hike in prices to an extent of double. Coincidentally, this period comes at a time when many have spent big during the summer holidays. But I am positive that the few tips that you have shared will go a long way in helping many parents save money and spend less but at the same time send off our kids to school with the best.
  • Meet Shannon

    "As a Certified Financial Planner, it is my passion to help individuals and families build a healthy relationship with money. I look forward to helping you raise financially confident kids.” - Shannon Ryan