Rick Lovett

Rick Lovett

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Back-to-School Budget Survival Guide

With the cost of everything up these days, I thought it would be a good time to share some ideas on how to save on Back-To-School expenses.

Hope this helps...

Clothing and gear

Lauren Greutman, an Oswego, New York-based frugal living expert and mom of four, believes that warehouse clubs can save families up to $500 a year. 

For just a small annual fee, chains such as BJ’s, Costco and Sam’s Club offer food, supplies and most other household items such as toiletries (and in some cases, even other items like electronics, clothes and shoes) at a discount. 

Why? Because people buy in bulk (you need to become a member in order to shop).

When it comes to clothing your kids for the upcoming school year, Greutman also suggests shopping online through cash-back sites such as Swagbucks or Ebates.

She also recommends looking for coupons on sites like Retailmenot, plus online clothing swap groups. 

"My kids’ school has a Facebook group where parents swap gently used clothing that their kids have grown out of it," she says.

If your school doesn’t have something similar, this would be a great time to start one.

In the same vein, check out online thrift shops such as Swap.com, ThredUp.com and Schoola.com — all of which offer clothing at a deep discount off the retail prices.

Nina Tooley, an Idaho-based mom and the head of marketing and commerce at The Cool Down, swears by online thrifting. 

For example, sneakers can be one of the biggest expenses but something you don’t want to skimp on — and a recent search on ThredUP showed a pair of New Balance Sneakers in good condition for just $19.99. 

As parents shop for their kids' new school year, hitting the store armed with a list — and sticking to it — is a helpful idea to avoid the urge to splurge.

Also, be careful not to get sucked into impulse buying. 

"Sometimes when we think we’re getting a deal, we'll actually walk out with 10 more bags of items we didn’t intend to buy — and spend more." 

Hitting the store armed with a list — and sticking to it — can be helpful to avoid the urge to splurge.


Supplies can be tough. The school or the teachers provide a list and you’re expected to purchase everything on it. 

In this case, the early bird gets the savings. 

Joe Lemay is founder and CEO of Rocketbook, a school-supply company based in Boston, Massachusetts. 

He says that "companies will often discount their tools ahead of the school year — so parents should be proactive and sign up for newsletters or email alerts from their favorite brands to stay on top of any upcoming sale periods."

Reusable water bottles aren’t the only thing savvy parents are buying. 

Purchasing key items in bulk can also be helpful, such as pencils, index cards and folders. 

For around $44, you can buy Rocketbook’s reusable multi-subject notebook, which allows students to write on its 70 pages with a special pen and then simply wipe it clean when done. 

This not only allows it to be reusable; it cuts down on purchasing multiple notebooks for different subjects. 

Rocketbook products are also cloud-connected via the company’s app, so you can save and store notes.

One great idea: Split bulk deals with other parents who are shopping for the same items.


Feeding our children healthy lunches is even more challenging today, given inflatio

"Avoid items that conveniently come in single or individual servings," says Tooley, as these items are often more costly. 

A closeup of vegetables that are served in a school lunch line is shown here.

Instead, buy the bulk items (such as the big container of Goldfish crackers or the big bunch of carrots) and ziplock bags in bulk (or even at the dollar store).

This will last you for weeks and save you money. Planning will also help when it comes to bulk shopping. 

One mom claims her 8-year-old has used the same lunch box since pre-school.

"Pick a few lunch combos you can put on repeat, such as sandwiches with carrots, crackers and apple slices," advises Tooley, "as this will make it easier on you and cheaper, too."

Tooley also recommends investing in a durable and washable stainless steel lunch box (one with separate compartments can even cut down on those plastic bags). 

A leak-proof one can be found on Amazon for $25; Tooley claims her 8-year-old has used the same one since pre-school.

Food co-ops are a way for a group of individuals to come together, buy in bulk and enjoy huge savings. 

"Just imagine gathering with 1,000 people who are looking for the same product and negotiating a wholesale price to split among its participants," says Greutman. 

Co-ops are set up around the country and are a great way to save on fruit, veggies, dairy products and even meats, she says. 

Don’t forget the reusable water bottle. Look for one that’s stainless steel, chip-proof, dishwasher-safe and has minimal parts to clean and maintain.

One great resource is LocalHarvest.Org; try to find the closest one to you.

Bottled water, milk and juice boxes can get expensive. Don’t forget the reusable water bottle. Look for one that’s stainless steel, chip-proof, dishwasher safe and has minimal parts to clean and maintain.

Amazon offers a great variety for decent prices and free shipping if you’re a prime member.

Sports and activities

What happens outside the school can get costly, too. This means sports and extracurricular activities. 

On your back-to-school shopping list, make sure to include sports gear, uniforms, practice clothes and more. 

Even if your child’s chosen sport (or sports) is school-based, you still need to invest in gear, uniforms, practice clothes, balls and more. 

Combined, my household of four kids engages in six different sports — that’s a lot of gear! 

I came across a company called Plate Crate (www.platecrate.com), which offers a monthly subscription box for sports like soccer and baseball, and saves consumers 50% off the contents if you'd purchased them at retail. 

Back to School Supplies Sale Hz

Photo: Getty Images

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