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School supply shopping can add up. And quick. This will be the first year that all three of my kids are heading back to school. This fall will also be my last semester at school as I finish my bachelors degree. With more school supplies to buy finding ways to save money on back to school shopping will be more important than ever.
Here’s how I plan to save on back to school shopping
This will my third year homeschooling Oldest Twin. Over the past two years I’ve learned a few tricks on saving money with our homeschool materials.
#1 – Project Gutenburg and the local library are fantastic resources. Project Gutenburg has hundreds of books that you can read online for free. From Tom Sawyer to Grimm’s Fairy Tales to The Secret Garden, we have had a lot of success in utilizing their website.
#2 – There are some great free (YouTube) or nearly free (Netflix) online video’s that you can incorporate into your studies. I particularly like finding video’s for us to use as part of our science and history curriculums. We watched several history video’s last year when we studied Texas History. I’m already looking for video’s for American History studies this year.
#3 – Check out online homeschool groups and buy/sell/trade websites for used physical books. Many homeschooling families will list books they are selling (FS), and you can post books that you are wanting to buy (ISO).
When the twins were in elementary school we had really good luck buying packaged school supplies directly from the school. It was convenient and I found that they were less expensive than if I tried to buy everything separately, even when buying things on sale.
Now that Youngest Twin is in middle school, that isn’t an option for us anymore. But I also find that many of his items last for more than one year. I don’t have to buy him a new backpack each year. And his lunch box will last for more than one year as well. For things that I know he will use a lot of, pencils and composition books, I make sure to stock up when they are on sale. They typically need to be replenished throughout the school year.
In our school district the students also wear a fairly loose ‘uniform’. Youngest Twin and Littlest will both be wearing navy colored shirts and pants/shorts to school each day. I can also stock up on those clothing items when they are on sale.
The major school supply I have to buy for myself are textbooks. There are so many options now that it’s important to really compare prices. For some books you can get digital textbooks, I did that for an astronomy class I took last semester. But I have found that renting books is the best deal for the majority of my classes. When figuring out the purchase price of a book, and subtracting how much you can get if you resell your book at the end of the semester, it has usually worked out that renting textbooks is the cheapest option.
Of course there will be times that you have to purchase a new textbook. For example, when a textbook for a PE class has worksheets in the back that you have to tear out and turn in (true story). But I do try to avoid buying new books as much as possible. If it is a book that I think I will want to keep after the class is over I try to find a used book with very little marking in it. If you are buying used textbooks online most will let you know how much marking is in the book.
It’s also important to teach my kids how to earn and save money. This week the boys are walking my parents dog in the afternoons while my Mom is on vacation. They have been planning out what they want to spend their earnings on. But we will also be asking them to save a percentage of their earnings as well. We want them to understand about saving for the future. Youngest Twin is already anxious to start driving. We want him to learn how to plan for big purchases, and the upkeep that things like cars will require.
In looking at better ways to make sure my kids, and their future, is protected, I came across Protective Life. Protective even has their own 10 ways to take control of back-to-school costs in addition to the tips I’ve already shared. I love how they even have a pie graph showing how back to school shopping for middle school students typically is spent. The highest two areas? Electronics and clothing. One tip I love for clothes shopping is to give kids a set budget and let them work out what they want within that budget.
And eye-opening for me for the future? The graph showing average expenses of elementary, middle school, and high school. FYI: High school is typically the highest.
If you’re ready to start saving for college Protective can help with that, too. Protective covers the advantages of saving early and provides information about 529 plans as well as other saving options. In fact, whatever you are most protective of, Protective Life is there to help answer your questions.
How do you save money on back to school shopping? Or teach your kids about finances and saving money? I’d love to hear your best tips!