How parents can save money on back-to-school shopping

"It’s so easy to get caught up in back-to-school shopping," says father and financial expert Jude Boudreaux, CFP, of Upperline Financial Planning in New Orleans. "Your children ask for items, or you end up buying items you wish you had when you were a child.” But don’t worry — you can navigate all the back-to-school sales and craziness without breaking the bank.

1. Make and keep a back-to-school shopping budget

Create your shopping list based on the supply lists provided by your children’s teachers. Check prices online to get a handle on actual costs and then set up your spending plan.

Keep in mind that older children tend to need more — and more expensive — supplies and clothes. Get those older kids involved! "They can learn how to allocate their money or find ways to earn extra funds if there are items that they would like to purchase with their own earnings,” Boudreaux says.

2. Buy online

Buying online can save you time and money. Look for online-only deals and free shipping offers, or the ability to shop online and pick up your items in the store.

3. Save with bulk buys

Keep your eyes peeled for back-to-school sales where you can stock up on large quantities at low prices. This is especially smart for high-demand items like notebooks and pencils. "If I overpurchase, I donate the surplus to the school or recycle as much as we can from year to year,” says Laura Staal, a mother of five in Southern Pines, NC.

4. Choose durability

It’s easy to think the most expensive school supplies and uniforms are the best, but the truth is, high quality and reasonable cost aren’t mutually exclusive. "I look for both price and durability,’ Staal says. After all, cheap items wear out faster and have to be replaced. Online reviews and insights from teachers and parents will help ensure that only the most cost-effective items make it onto your back-to-school shopping list.

5. Pack up the savings with a good backpack

Backpacks are a must-have item, so choosing a backpack carefully is key. Research online reviews of the brands and styles your kids like the best and examine the most promising ones in person when possible. Buy the most durable and reliable backpack within your budget and ask about warranties. Remember: If you buy a poor-quality backpack because it’s cheap, you may end up having to buy another one later.

6. Save on back-to-school shopping at Staples

There are three ways to save on back-to-school shopping at Staples:

  1. Our in-store Price Match Guarantee* promises that if you find a lower price on an identical item sold by a competitor, just show us the lower price when you buy the item at Staples and we’ll match the price and add an additional 10% discount.
  2. You can earn Staples Rewards all year on any in-store purchase. Sign up at your local Staples store or online.
  3. Parents can earn additional rewards for the educators of their choice through a Classroom Rewards program. Every time parents shop at Staples, their teacher will get 5% back on every purchase.

7. Setting priorities

Setting a back-to-school shopping budget and looking for savings ensures "that other priorities like family vacations and date nights don't get sacrificed for the extras that kids just 'had to have,’” Boudreaux says. "Plus tracking your spending will make a huge difference in your planning and awareness for future years.”

*In store only. A lower price on the same item sold by a competitor, including an online/retail seller and directly by, will be matched and discounted at 10%. See a store associate for details.