If you’ve been to a store lately then you probably know that back to school shopping is in full swing. From binders to electronics to clothing, just about everything seems to be marked down in the spirit of returning to school. However, despite all of the the self-proclaimed “great deals”, this time of year is mighty expensive for most parents. In fact, your child’s back to school shopping list may be even longer than his or her Christmas list!
So, how can you get school supplies for free or at least cheaply? Well, as usual, I’m glad that you asked…here are my tips for getting school supplies for free or on the cheap. (If you still need additional ideas on how to find free school supplies I share more here.)
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School Supplies for Free
Getting school supplies for free is largely going to be based on financial need. This means that if you simply love a great deal but aren’t in financial straits there’s a good chance you will not be able to get school supplies for free. However, below, are some options to check out.
If you need school supplies for free, a great starting point is your local news affiliate because they will usually highlight local donors or organizations that are providing school supplies for free. Search the news affiliate’s website for information. Another local option to get school supplies for free as well as other assistance such as mentoring, is the Salvation Army. While the Salvation Army is an organization with locations across the country, it is decentralized meaning you will need to talk to your local office for information on assistance. The Boys & Girls Club of America is another resource for getting school supplies for free. Supplies donated by partners such as Disney, Michaels, and Staples are delivered directly to local clubs so check with your local Boys & Girls Club for information on getting back to school assistance.
On a national level, visit the Kids in Need Foundation which provides school supplies for free to students across the country. They also have details about grants for teachers so that these hardworking educators can get funds to prepare their classroom. According to Adopt a Classroom, the average teacher spends $1,000 a year out of pocket on school supplies and classroom materials. This national nonprofit provides money to teachers to ensure that children have the classroom and school supplies they need.
If you or your spouse is a member of the military (deployed, wounded, or active duty), head to the Operation Homefront site to find out about getting school supplies for free.
An option for getting school supplies for free that is not based on financial need comes from Amazon. Amazon’s Kindle store offers free textbooks in a variety of subjects from physics to algebra. The great news is that you don’t have to have a Kindle to make use of these free textbooks. Amazon offers a free Kindle app so that you can utilize Kindle books on your iPad, computer, and other devices.
Bonus: If you are a member of Amazon Prime, you can browse a library of over 180,000 books to borrow for free. You can get a 30 day free trial of Amazon Prime and if you’re a student you can get a 6 month free Prime account.
Another option to get school supplies for free that is not income dependent is Freecycle. Freecycle is basically a huge online swap-meet. With members across the globe, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find something you need and, bonus, be able to get rid of some of the clutter in your own home.
School Supplies for Cheap
Finding school supplies for cheap takes a bit of time, research, and creativity but really isn’t outlandishly difficult. Before we get to the tips on getting school supplies for cheap, here is something to keep in mind before doing any back to school shopping:
Know what your child needs. If the school hasn’t provided you with a back to school shopping list yet don’t purchase supplies! Wait until you know exactly what items your child will need to avoid purchasing the wrong items (ex. 1” binders instead of 2” binders), over purchasing, or under purchasing and having to return to the store. In addition, take some time to go through your child’s belongings to figure out exactly what back to school items (backpacks, lunch boxes, clothing, shoes, etc) he or she needs.
One option for getting school supplies cheap is to do your homework before heading to the store. Grab a bunch of circulars for local stores and hit the Internet to start comparison shopping. If you find an item cheaper at one place, instead of driving all over town, ask your preferred store if they’ll price match. Once you’re at the store, get school supplies for cheap by purchasing store brands versus name brands. According to consumer Reports’ ShopSmart magazine, going with store brands can save you almost 75%.
Like I said above, you might have to get a little creative in order to save big. Connect with some other parents and go in together to buy items in bulk in order to get school supplies cheap. Let technology help you with this and consider creating a Facebook page or other social media profile to connect with other parents.
As always, when you’re looking to save, it’s wise to buddy up to the stores. Follow stores that carry the items you need on Facebook and other social media channels, sign up for their newsletters, and get a reward or loyalty card if they offer it. If possible, wait to purchase your child’s school supplies until a week or so after school has started as many stores will be slashing prices to clear all that back to school inventory. This goes for everything from paper to clothes to backpacks so if you can stick it out a little longer your wallet will thank you.
Being a savvy shopper takes time and unfortunately, us parents are pretty strapped for time. In order to help out, I did some of the work for you so that you can avoid the crazy crowds and use your time for other, more important things. I scoured the Internet and price compared many back to school items. Here are some of the best buys I could find:
- Permanent Markers
- Dry Erase Markers
- Markers in assorted colors – bonus, they’re scented!
- Highlighters in assorted colors
- Crayola Washable Markers
- Oxford Report Covers (clear)
- Oxford Report Covers (assorted colors)
There you have it, a whole slew of ways to get school supplies for free or on the cheap. Keep in mind, when trying to get school supplies for free the early bird gets the worm so start contacting organizations and looking for those freebies now! However, when it comes to getting school supplies for cheap it may pay to just lie in wait a little longer. Either way, evaluate what items your child needs, make a list, and then make a plan of action. Happy hunting!
Do you know of other ways to get school supplies for free or on the cheap? If so, please share them in the comments.