Save money on back-to-school shopping: readers' best tips

For parents on a budget, back-to-school shopping can feel like a spending free-for-all. Here are Simple Dollar readers' best tips for keeping back-to-school shopping affordable.

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    Raegan Jackson, picks out a backpack shopping at Target in Lynchburg, Va. earlier this month. Readers recommend holding out until Labor Day and buying clothes and supplies online for the best back-to-school deals. (AP Photo/News & Daily Advance, Sam O'Keefe)
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For any parent on a budget, back-to-school shopping can feel more like a back-to-school spending free-for-all. It’s the same every year. Teachers send out those foot-long lists of “required” and “recommended” supplies, and kids are eager not to be the only student who isn’t touting the latest and greatest backpack, lunchbox, pants, or pens on that first day. We all want to send our kids to school equipped with everything they need to face their new school year feeling fully-prepared and confident. But as our writers have pointed out, there are ways to both prepare and please your student without blowing a fortune on school supplies.

The key to reigning in your back-to-school overspending lies in understanding which supplies are truly essential. What do you already have lying around from last year? Which items can you wait to buy until later in the season? And which supplies can you skip altogether? These are questions that frugal-minded parents deal with every year, so for this week’s Reader Tips, we thought we’d ask our readers for their best back-to-school saving strategies.

Here are some of our favorite responses with minor edits!

  • “I try to skip the hype (circulars and catalogs only work wants into needs) and avoid falling into a Starbucks-fueled Target frenzy with the PTA packs for the actual classroom supplies. I do generally buy new sneakers from Zappos or Amazon, so my guys get something fresh for the first day.” –Carrie B.
  • “I don’t have kids but I love back to school sales. I pick up my office supplies for the year after the rush is over and the sales are at their peak.” –Randi K.
  • “There are always really good sales over Labor Day if you can hold out until then. And also keep reminding yourself that you don’t NEED new clothes and supplies if your old ones are still in good shape; retailers push the snazziest new stuff because it makes them a profit, but if you need to watch your pennies, don’t fall for it.” –Lee B.
  • “I usually pick up stuff at “non” peak times and stow it away. So instead of going shopping during the summer, I do it right after Christmas (when the supply stores have some sale or discount) and towards May, when everyone’s out of school and not thinking about it. And then just toss it in a tote until I need it.” –Stephanie V.
  • “How much new stuff is really needed? Have a fun arts & crafts week and gussy up last year’s stuff to give it a new, updated feel… What a great time to give your kids a lesson in frugality about the value of decorating and fixing things instead of trashing them! And school hasn’t even started yet!!!” –Jamie S.

A huge thank you for the readers that shared their ideas! Every Tuesday we’ll post a new question on our Facebook page.  We look forward to hearing and sharing your tips.

This post appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best economy-related bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on

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