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Back to School? 6 Tips for Budget-Friendly School Shopping

With school starting up within the next week – and some already starting – finding the right supplies can come with a large price tag. Licensed products, multiples of expensive things, and the need to constantly replace backpacks can run any budget low quickly.


The first thing to do is to buy a backpack that will last. This may cost more this year, but in the long run will save you money. Part of making a backpack last longer is how you treat it. The zippers, for instance, break before almost anything else on a backpack. By being gentle with them, the backpack will last longer.

Backpack Zippers

As mentioned above, the backpack zippers break first. To prevent this, lubricating them is a good idea. This keeps them running like new. However, clean the zipper out with a washcloth first. This keeps dirt from being trapped in the zippers. Being gentle once the zippers are clean and lubricated is another idea. To be gentle, pull the zippers from the metal pulls. That’s what they’re there for!

Look Around the House

How much gathers up between years can be surprising. Keep everything together: whether it’s in a box or a bin. This will be helpful come the end of the next summer when looking at the new supply list. This keeps the money in the budget – where it can be used on what is really needed this year. For new college students, this is a major do. If a notebook from the year before hasn’t been used or has only a few pages in the front that were used, try to recycle them. Rip out the front pages (only if it’s a spiral notebook; if it’s composition, try to stay in the same topic) and redecorate the cover. Easy!

Get the Classics

When school calls for the classic books, you can get many of them for free. The Gutenberg Project has taken many public domain books (such as those from Jane Austen, Shakespeare, and Charles Dickens) and put them online. They have a copyright notice for the Project, but the books are free. They are available in PDF and eReader files. You even have the option to read online.

Price Hunt

Look around. Sometimes the prices vary between stores. Large supermarkets will use price drops to bring in customers. Krogers, for instance, dropped Crayola products to about a dollar each last year. If you’re doing your shopping online, look for something like an Amazon promo code for free shipping to help cut costs. Finding the best price (whether it is online or at a store) is a great way to stay within budget.


The best thing to do, however, is reuse. If you keep a good eye on what you have, you’ll know what you need. If you have plenty of pens, why get more? Buying plastic binders, folders and other reusable items will save money in the long run. Taking good care of these items also helps keep costs down the next year.

To keep everything simple, reusing and buying things to last will keep your school supply shopping list in the budget. Whether you buy used, new, or reuse the old supplies, using these tips can keep you in the budget. Even looking for the best price – which can be exasperating – will keep the money spent on the low side.

Tim Esterdahl

Tim Esterdahl is the editor of IFCS blog. He is a married father of three and enjoys golf in his spare time.
Tim Esterdahl

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