6 Savvy Tips for Back-to-School Savings

August 24, 2022 by Chevron Federal Credit Union

It’s back-to-school shopping season, but what’s different about the annual ritual this year? Inflation is top of mind for nearly 60% of parents, finds a new Deloitte report, with many saying they expect to spend more on back-to-school purchases because prices are higher.

With the average per-child amount pegged to grow 8% to $661 from last year, budgeting for all those back-to-school must-haves may seem daunting. How can you make the most of your money? Here are six handy tips to maximize savings as you get your student ready to head back to class.

Shop your home first

School supply lists may say students will need two packages of filler paper. But in reality, they used only one. So, before you shop, check around the house for leftover inventory. You may be surprised to find extra boxes of pencils, fresh erasers or still-new notebooks that went unused last year. Reusing or recycling old supplies before you buy more means you can cross those items off the list in advance, without spending a dime.

Look for the loss leaders

With back-to-school supplies, it pays to keep an eye out for loss leaders — advertised items on front pages of stores’ sale circulars that are priced way below cost to drive store traffic. The fact is, prices change over the course of the back-to-school shopping season, and these deep discounts often represent the best deals, such as 10-cent folders or buy-one-get-one-free binders. If you stick to your list and only buy items where and when they’re deeply discounted, you win.

Take advantage of tax holidays

Did you know that some states give you a tax break on school supplies? Twenty states currently offer sales tax holidays between July and September, during which purchases of things like school supplies, books, clothing, footwear, computers and sports equipment are tax-free. While rules and limits may vary by state, the savings will add up if you time your shopping during these dates. To help you plan, the Federation of Tax Administrators maintains a list of state sales tax holidays and links to more information.

Think outside the big box retail

During back-to-school season, bookstores, craft and art supply stores, drugstores and dollar stores stock up on everything from crayons and glue sticks to backpacks and storage cubes. So, casting a wider net of retail sources can return bigger savings — plus give you a broader selection of attractively priced brands that the usual stores don’t carry.

Snag student-specific discounts

Plenty of retailers offer discounts or other benefits geared to teens or college-age students — sometimes tied to back-to-school season and sometimes all year long. What’s more, student-focused platforms like UNiDAYS and Student Beans collect the deals from multiple retailers in one place. Accessing the savings is often as simple as showing a student ID to a cashier just once or, in some cases, sharing a school email address.

Get a price match

Bought a lunch box and backpack over the weekend and then a few days later see them advertised for less somewhere else? Check to see if the store where you purchased your school supplies has a price-matching or price-guarantee program and put that cost difference back in your pocket. Many retailers will match lower prices on identical items or refund the difference if you find them at competing retailers — even those sold and shipped by Amazon.com.

Making the grade for back-to-school success

Back-to-school expenses are the second-largest spending event for parents, just behind holiday gifting. And as you’re considering ways to pay for all those needed school supplies, remember that your credit union’s variety of credit card options have you covered with valuable cash back or rewards on lots of eligible purchases. It pays to get schooled on savvy ways to save during one of the most important family budget moments of the year.


From everyday finance to life’s big money moments, it’s better when you belong.