Save Money on Back-to-School Shopping

With 8 kids in school, Mighty Mommy knows how expensive and time consuming back-to-school shopping can be. Here are 5 ways to help you save money (and your sanity) as you send your kids back to school.

Cheryl Butler
Episode #245

Those sharpened No. 2 pencils, along with colored binders, graphing calculators, 3-subject notebooks, and other must-haves are going to cost families a bit more this year.  According to Huntington Bank’s Eighth Annual Backpack Index, school supply costs will grow an average of 7.3% for K-12 students as compared to last year.

With 8 kids, Mighty Mommy knows how expensive and time consuming back-to-school shopping can be. That's why today I’m going to share 5 ways you can save a few bucks (along with your sanity) as you send your kids back to school.


Savings Tip #1:  Create a Spending Strategy and Include Your Kids

Many of us cringe when we hear the word budget—I mean it just sounds so restricting and signifies that we will probably have to do without things that we really need or want. But thanks to my colleague, Laura Adams, Money Girl, I use the term “spending strategy” instead.  

When it comes to shopping for our kids, of course we want to be able to provide them with the best of everything. But let’s be realistic, everything kid-related is expensive and that definitely includes back-to-school stuff.  By creating a spending strategy and including your kids in the process, you not only set spending expectations ahead of time, you also teach your children a great life skill as well. 

See also: How to Teach Your Kids About Money


Savings Tip #2:  Categorize Your Shopping List

Start by making a list for each child which categorizes the following:

  • School supplies (pencils, binders, notebooks, folders)
  • School gear (lunchboxes, backpacks, sports and musical equipment)
  • School clothing (shoes, underwear, socks, pants, shirts, dresses)

Keep in mind that the younger grades—kindergarten through 4th—don’t need a lot of supplies. Usually their teachers will send a list home of necessary supplies after the first few days of school. So don’t go hog wild buying mechanical pencils and sharpies until you see what they actually want your child to have. 

Middle school and high school students can usually find a list of recommended supplies on their school’s website.  You don’t have to purchase everything at once, either.  Teachers are reasonable and understand that students and families need several weeks to transition back into the new school routine and that includes buying supplies.    

If you have a young musician who is just certain he wants to play the trombone this year, ask around amongst family and friends if anyone has one your child can borrow until he sees if he likes it.  This is also a great way to borrow sports equipment, such as hockey gear or lacrosse sticks, before you invest a small fortune only to find that your child loses interest after the first practice!      

Once I have an organized list for each child...


About the Author

Cheryl Butler

Cheryl L. Butler is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. Call the Mighty Mommy listener line at 401-284-7575 to ask a parenting question. Your call could be featured on the show!

The Quick and Dirty Tips Privacy Notice has been updated to explain how we use cookies, which you accept by continuing to use this website. To withdraw your consent, see Your Choices.