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7 Ways to Save on Back-to-School Shopping

July 22, 2015
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You know the value of shopping during sales and clipping coupons, but there are more ways to save on back-to-school shopping. Check out our top seven ways to cut the cost of those 2015 school year necessities.

1. Use what you have

Before you ever set foot in an office supply store or start browsing online for book bags and binders, do some searching in a different place — your own home. Start by collecting any usable supplies you already have. From last year’s backpack to extra pens and pencils, you might be surprised by what you have in your closets and drawers. Every item you can find at home is one you don’t have to pay for in the store.

2. Shop secondhand

If you don’t want to pay full price for a brand new school wardrobe, try shopping at secondhand stores. A variety of retail outlets offer used clothing and accessories — even online. Online store Twice, for example, sells gently used clothing items from popular brands such as Nike and Steve Madden, so you won’t have to sacrifice style for savings.

You can avoid purchasing new fall clothes altogether with the help of your family and friends. If your child has an older sibling or friend, hand-me-downs are always a cost-effective option.

3. Visit the clearance department

If you do need to buy clothing or other school essentials new, it can’t hurt to check the clearance department. Other than during storewide sales, this is where you’ll generally find the deepest discounts a retailer has to offer. When browsing online, always look for the “sale” or “clearance” section of a store’s website.

[For more school shopping tips, check out NerdWallet’s Guide to 2015 Back-to-School Shopping.]

4. Brown bag it

It’s not just the cost of clothing that can add up. Skip the purchase of an expensive lunchbox by using bags you have at home instead. Plus, when you pack your child’s lunch, you eliminate the expense of buying lunch at the school cafeteria each day.

5. Avoid the latest trends

Just as the latest versions of electronic products are typically more expensive than past years’ models, the just-released or more advanced versions of school supplies will generally come at a higher price. When possible, opt for the plain pencil pouch over the character-themed type, the standard glue over the glitter glue and so forth.

6. Get creative

Paying less for school supplies doesn’t mean they have to be boring. Give your child’s supplies some personalization with do-it-yourself projects. For example, instead of buying stickers to decorate a binder, hand draw some doodles. Rather than buying an expensive backpack with an elaborate design, draw your own patterns onto the plain one your son or daughter used last year. Head to sites like Pinterest if you need more arts-and-crafts inspiration.

7. Go in on supplies together

Finally, help you and your child’s fellow students save by going in on supplies together. Split the cost and the supplies on classroom essentials that your child and his or her friends could all benefit from using. You can always borrow and swap, too. Trade that highlighter you have extras of for the red pen that’s missing from your collection.

Courtney Jespersen is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: [email protected]. Twitter: @courtneynerd.

Image via iStock.