Do the Math: 10 Ways to Save Money on Back-to-School Shopping

The average family will spend $684.79 on back-to-school shopping this year

By Publisher Kara Murphy, Macaroni Kid Erie August 7, 2018

It's the time of year to stock up on No. 2 pencils, calculators, and brand new shoes. Have your kids do the math; all those purchases add up quick. 

In fact, families with children in elementary through high school plan to spend an average $684.79 on back-to-school shopping this year, according to the National Retail Federation. That puts back-to-school shopping just behind Christmas as the top spending event for Americans each year, outranking Mother's Day, Father's Day, and Valentine's Day -- combined!

Where's all that money going? Here's the breakdown of an average family's back-to-school spending, according to the study:

  • $237 on clothing and accessories 
  • $187 on electronics
  • $139 on shoes
  • $122 on school supplies

Let's save some money!

Those numbers shocked us, so we decided to make it our mission to spend less on back-to-school shopping this year. We know our Macaroni Mamas are always looking for good deals too, so we asked you to chime in with your top money-saving tips on back-to-school shopping.

Here's what you said:

Spend money to save money.

Buy a quality book bag so it lasts more than a year. Same with clothes and sneakers -- cheap clothes don’t last!

Amy R., Erie, Pa.

Buy all year round.

I buy things all year whenever I see them on sale and keep a big school supply box. Much less to buy when it's time to go back to school and have extras for when teachers send home notes needing things.

Betsy W., Inverness, Fla.

Re-use as much as you can.

I use items we already have at home, or reuse items from the last year. Who says you have to buy new every year?

Brenna G., Oak Park, Ill.

Go old school.

Go retro. Help your kids make book covers, for instance. You can use paper bags, craft paper, or wrapping paper instead of buying products like book socks.

Victoria D., Camarillo, Calif.

Buy in bulk.

Buying in bulk definitely saves money, especially when stores start offering clearance prices.

Sandra O., North Little Rock, Ark. 

Take time to research online.

I search for promo codes prior to purchases, and also use apps and websites like Dosh and Ebates to get automatic cash back. These rewards really add up! After it's all said and done, sometimes I literally pay pennies for the things I need.

Kristen W., College Park, Ga.

Swap it.

Our school hosts a uniform swap each summer. It's a great way to save money and help out other families. 

Christy H., Cincinnati, Ohio

I reach out to friends with children to see if they have any supplies they are finished with before I buy new.

Delaney O., Southampton, N.Y.

Shop consignment.

Shop consignment/outlets for back-to-school clothes ... When I was young, it was a fun ritual for us to shop at the local outlets for a few nice school outfits. We looked forward to it, and we never broke the bank!

Nikki S., Muncy, Pa.

Find it FREE.

I have found school supplies on our local freecycle site. We also have a free store where you can find lots of great things. Craigslist also has a free section. It's amazing what people give away. You can really stock up on everything from office supplies to kid's clothes.

Holly P., Baltimore, Md.

Find a local school supply drive.

We added this to the list! That's because many community organizations host school supply drives to help kids start the school with the tools they need to succeed. A good place to start? Check with your local United Way to find out if they’re hosting a school supply drive or know of one nearby!

Thanks for all the ideas Macaroni Mamas! We plan to ace this assignment and use these tips to save a lot of money on our back-to-school shopping this year. Hope you can do the same! 


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