School Supply Shopping Strategy

(updated 7/10/17)

I am always surprised each year when the school supply displays are put out and I feel that we just started summer! However, the chore of shopping for supplies must be done! With four kids and my jobs as a teacher and Hebrew school director, I have developed a strategy for shopping wisely for all my supply needs without spending a fortune. Here is what I do each year:

1) Check the sale fliers:

Each summer around the beginning of July, the stores start putting out the school supplies. The sale fliers often feature deals (loss leaders) for items anywhere from $.01 to $1.00 each! I keep a list of the lowest prices of each item I have seen over the years, so I know what is a good deal. Each Saturday eve or Sunday morning I scour the sale fliers to see what the deals are for that week. My favorite place to go each week is Office Depot/OfficeMax. See my post Saving money at Office Depot on how to save the most there. Other stores including Target, Walgreens and CVS often have deals, too.

I identify which items are a good deal and make my shopping list. These are the items for less than $1 or with large discounts. Even if an item is not on my sons’ lists, I may still add it to my shopping list, because they may need it another year or we may need it at home or for my own classroom. NOTE: Some items may have a limit per household or business, so be sure to note that on your list so you don’t have trouble at the register.

2) Make your weekly trip:

I then go to those stores EARLY in the week (Sunday or Monday) and buy only those items. I do not get suckered into buying other items, even if my son needs them, if they were not on my list for that week. You do sometimes have to make a $5 minimum at Office Depot/OfficeMax, but that is often easy to do with just a few items – even ones on sale that week.

3) Repeat steps 1 and 2:

I hit the sales each week until the last few weeks before school starts. Then I take stock of what I have purchased and still need to get (see Steps 4 and 5). Those last items become my final shopping list. I do still take advantage of those last few sales at the end of August and early September and those items also go into my inventory.

4) Make your master shopping list:

Early in August (or sooner if I can), I type my sons’ school supply lists into one list with the total of each item I need. Our school’s list is broken up by Judaic and General Studies, so that you bring separate supplies for each classroom. However, when I am at the store, I need the total amount of each item (4 erasers versus 2 erasers for General Studies and 2 for Judaics). This list also helps because I am buying for four kids and for my jobs!

5) Take inventory of what you have:

I then go to my inventory of school supplies in the basement and pull out any supplies that are needed on my master list. I put those supplies in a box to go to school when the time comes (I label everything before sending them to school.) I still shop each week and continue to add to the box and inventory after each trip. By the end of the summer, I usually only have a few things to buy at full price.

6) Shop for those last few things:

Some items never go on sale or we need so many of them that the price is outrageous. Here are a few items I have found cheapest in other places:

  • Paper towels – Aldi often has the best deals for these.
  • 3″ binders – I hate buying these because they can be so expensive. I usually compare Sam’s Club and Amazon and see which is cheapest that year. Luckily my kids’ teachers sent them back home this year, so we can use them again!
  • Assignment books – Be sure you know exactly what your child’s teacher wants for this. We ended up going on Amazon to get the style our boys’ teacher wanted.
  • Tissues – I bought an industrial pack from Amazon. They may not be the softest, but when you have four kids’ teachers requesting them, you get what you can afford!

For weekly shopping lists and tips, check out “Kosher on a Budget.” She features the school supply sales at Walgreens, CVS, Target, OfficeMax, Office Depot, and Staples.

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3 thoughts on “School Supply Shopping Strategy

Add yours

  1. I wanted to add to your list. This is a great strategy that I’ve have learned over the years too. I wanted to give you advise with all the running around to the different stores each week; you can now take those sales fliers to Target and they will price match it. Since Target is only a block away not only do I save time but I save a lot of gas too. Checking your favorite store to see if they price is a big money saver. I also know that Wal-mart matches sale prices and Fred Meyer on some things. I hope this helps!!!

    1. I have never done price-matching at Target. I was not even aware of it. Will they only match things in a flier? What about if you just know from your price list an item’s price but it is not listed in that week’s flier? I have kept my errands to a minimum in that I am only doing Target and OfficeMax for my school supply shopping. There may be a few deals at some other places, but I have had good luck with those and am saving a bundle!

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