How to save money on supplies, backpacks and school clothes every year.

How To Save Money on Back-to-School Shopping Every Year

I’ve been around the back-to-school shopping block a few times and I’ve found ways to help stretch supplies, clothing and the family budget from year-to-year.

I still enjoy the tradition of going shopping before school starts. We still buy new things to start the school year fresh, but there are several practical ways to help greatly reduce the expense of what is truly needed when school starts.


How to save money on supplies, backpacks and school clothes every year.

Here are my techniques for saving money on back-to-school shopping each year:

1. Buy Used

Recognize that every single thing doesn’t have to be brand new on the first day of school, and kids can still wear a good number of their summer clothes for the first few months of school.

I love to shop for clothes at Goodwill or Buy/Sell/Trade sites on Facebook, and I gladly accept hand-me-downs in good condition. If hand-me-downs need to be stored until they’re the appropriate size, I keep them in storage bags at the top of the closet marked with season and size. It’s a great surprise to look up later and find a lot of my shopping already done for me at close reach.

Plus, during my son’s first week of kindergarten several years ago, he took his brand new little pair of Fiskar scissor and cut holes in 4 of his nice polo shirts. They were nice shirts, but the fact that I only paid $2 for each of them took a lot of sting out of the situation, if you know what I mean.

I’ve never had a problem sending my boys to school looking presentable in new-to-us clothing. It’s easy to find good quality clothing out there and you can’t beat the price.

2. Buy a Size Up

I may only need to buy two or three new pairs of jeans or jean shorts throughout the year (they dress comfortably in nice shorts and athletic pants mostly). When I do shop for jeans, I look for brands with these great tabs inside the waistline.

clothing tabs

I buy a size up and cinch the waists to the appropriate fit, and let them out as they grow. We shop primarily for clothes at Walmart and Target, so I know you can find these there.

I also buy t-shirts a size up for reasons to be explained in the next point.

3. Stretch Their Wardrobe

We live in Tennessee, and the kids here can still wear appropriate summer clothing throughout August and September, so if you don’t want to buy used, you can hold off on buying fall and winter clothing for a few months in most cases if you need to.

I also stretch their ability to wear t-shirts throughout the winter months, because kids love their character t-shirts and want to wear them year-round. Buy the t-shirts a size up for longer wear (I’ve found a ton of character shirts at used stores, fyi.)

layered shirts

I look for simple, long sleeved cotton shirts in plain colors to mix-and-match underneath character t-shirts. Basic colors work great for this. My son’s favorite color is green.

layered shirts

This also works if you have old long-sleeved shirts where the lettering or design on the front is really worn, stained or faded. Just throw a t-shirt on top of it. Done.

4. Reuse and Reinforce backpacks

My guys got cool Star Wars backpacks for Christmas that are still in great condition, so we are going to use them for the new school year.

They are the full size 16 inch packs and still very sturdy. Star Wars never goes out of style and they love these. To switch it up, they are going to trade packs so they can use something different, but we get to skip buying new ones for now.


(These particular designs aren’t still currently available, but there are similar styles here and here on Amazon for just under $20 each.)

It’s also a great idea to reinforce the inside bottoms of backpacks. I use my husband’s black gaff tape that he keeps on hand to tape down cables for video production.

It holds really well like duct tape, but gaff tape has more give to be flexible with the soft bottom lining of a backpack. And it’s really strong to protect against spiral notebooks and the edges of hardcover books, or anything else that stabs at the bottom lining.

This is a great way to stretch the use of an old backpack, or help a new one last longer.

5. Reuse Supplies in Good Condition

I used to throw unused school supplies from previous years into our art box at home, but it’s getting really full and to be honest, we already have 4 pairs of Fiskar scissors. The pair we had last year is still in great condition and the appropriate size, so we’re reusing them.


I also found numerous brand new eraser tops, glue sticks and highlighters that we can use this year. A pencil box wasn’t on his list this time, but we have 4 to choose from if that changes. Most of the supplies we need are new, but I like to reuse what I can at this point.

If you need sporting equipment or certain electronics for older kids, there’s a good possibility you can buy those gently used items from someone that no longer needs them, it’s worth checking out.


We always need to buy new shoes because they wear those down pretty quickly, and we get new undergarments. But our costs for two kids were pretty minimal this year and that makes me really happy. I love to eliminate certain costs altogether, or spread them out so it’s a softer blow to the budget over time.

Have you learned any new tricks over time to save money on back-to-school shopping? What would you add?

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Here are ways to save on school supplies, backpacks and school clothes every year.

Teaching Life Skills with “The School Of Mom”

If you look at the world around you, it’s easy to see that kids have never had it better, especially in the way of entertainment. I try to think back to what I even used to do back in the day when I was growing up.

There were no kidfests on every corner, tablets or smart phones.  I had a Bluebird bike with a banana seat, and the closest things I had to high-tech were an Etch-a-Sketch and a Lite-Brite.

I love that there is so much for kids now, but I think we often get so preoccupied with entertaining them, that we forget about teaching them the basics.

Cos Davis, a guest speaker at my mom’s group at church once (affectionately) told us:

“You know, moms. You do everything for everybody and then you complain about doing everything for everybody. When you raise kids, you are trying to work yourselves out of a job. Yes, you love them to pieces, but they need to be able to stand on their own when they are adults.”

I completely agree with this.

It is hard for me because I have former first-baby-helicopter-mom tendencies and a love language that is service to others. I am a recipe for disaster, i.e. kids living in my basement.

But I can do this.

Now that the kids are older (8 and almost 3), I really want to start delegating more household chores. I started off just asking my oldest to do a few things for me.

And then it became obvious that I had never actually taken the time to show him how to do certain things.


He insists that this is easier 🙂

I really am not a stickler for technique, to each his own as long it’s done well.

But at my house, for the next few weeks I am putting my kids through The School of Mom.

I am going to teach both boys how to do one basic household task, give them a day or two to implement it, and share about it as we move on to the next thing. I have big plans for laundry and dishes, vacuuming, and the grocery store to name a few.

I am going to add a “Toddler Task” to each post because my youngest is at that golden age where he really does want to help. So I am going to strike while the iron is hot, and find an age-appropriate related job for him too.


Grace and patience will be required as we tackle this. They might do things differently than I do, and I’m going to have to really fight my urge to re-do what they’ve done. But I really want them to be wise in the ways of the home. I’m putting myself into imaginary handcuffs.

We may need a few refresher courses as we go, but I believe that kids are capable of a lot more than we give them credit for.


I am at a prime bargaining stage with my older boy for screen time. And we are in serious need of upgrading the chore list.

And since all of the holiday breaks from school are closing in, I figure now is a great time to do it.

It really doesn’t take very long to show them how you do something, and I think of it as a long term investment. Maybe their future spouses will thank me? 🙂

I look forward to seeing what we are all going to learn from this experience, and the adventures that are sure to follow.

Thanks for coming along for the ride!


See all of the lessons in the School of Mom:

Why it's important to teach kids life skills and put them through The School of Mom