Start at Home
You might be surprised by how many supplies are already in your house. Send the kids on a scavenger hunt; whoever finds the most items on the teacher’s list get a prize.
Find Your Perfect Match
Shop at stores with price-match guarantees. Target and Staples will match prices from brick-and-mortar stores and retail sites such as Amazon (you’ll need the competitor’s ad or other proof of a lower price for the same item). Discountschoolsupply.com will match a price and refund 10 percent of the difference if another store has it for less. Last year, Walmart debuted Savings Catcher: Within a week of purchase, enter your receipt number on the store’s website (or scan it on the Walmart app). The site will search for competitors’ prices from the past week. If a lower price is found, you’ll get an e-gift card for the difference. You can also use the ShopSavvy app to scan any product’s bar code and ensure you’re getting the best deal.
Take a Detour in the Supermarket
Come July, grocery stores and drugstores use smaller supplies to lure shoppers. Last year, for example, Kroger stores nationwide marked down certain Crayola products, including a 10-pack of markers, which typically go for $2 to $3, to $1 each. And Walgreens stores charged 49 cents for a one-subject notebook (regularly $1.49).
Buy a Backpack That’s Built to Last
L.L.Bean backpacks are famously durable, but at $30 and up, they’re not the most budget-friendly. Last August, the company cut prices to as low as $15, and it is likely to do the same this year. Even better is its satisfaction guarantee: You can return the pack for a full refund or replacement for any reason (broken zipper, change of heart about the color) at any time, even years later. JanSport bags also have a lifetime guarantee. Unlike L.L.Bean products, which are sold only directly through the company, JanSport is available practically everywhere, so sales occur more often.
Get Classics for Free
Many of the world’s great works of literature and philosophy can be downloaded at no cost and printed in a variety of formats at Gutenberg.org.
Why buy new every year? Opt for plastic folders, dividers and binders instead of flimsy cardboard ones. If last year’s spiral notebooks aren’t used up, tear out the old pages and decorate a new cover.
Work the Warranty
If you’re in the market for a new backpack or jacket, buy one that comes with a lifetime warranty. L.L.Bean, Lands’ End and REI are among companies that will fix or replace worn merchandise for the entire life of a product. So if a backpack gives out in a year, or even 10 years from now, you can pick out a replacement for free.