How to Save Big on Back-to-School Shopping

Whether you’re buying crayons for your kindergartener, or are sending your student to college, it can pay to shop smart this season and save on back-to-school essentials. Try our tips for smart spending as you prepare for the coming school year.

Don’t go overboard.

Buying extra frills items like a pencil box that matches the lunch box may be tempting, but it may be worth looking at everything necessary first.

Most grade schools provide a list of necessary supplies for your student and detail what they’ll need. Teachers compile lists specifically for their classes, so if something isn’t on the list, chances are you won’t need it. You might be tempted to fill your cart with adorable notebooks and accessories, but if you stick to the script, you’ll save more money.

Likewise, for a college student, the less to carry around campus, the better, so don’t buy your new college student extra goodies in an effort to make the occasion more memorable. Instead, focus on what can be consolidated by technology. Sometimes investing in a great laptop can eliminate unnecessary expenses elsewhere.

Do shop sales.

If your student needs more expensive items for back-to-school, like a backpack or graphing calculator, pay attention to the plethora of sales and rebates available during July, August and September. Compare prices among retailers and choose the best option for you, whether buying online or heading to the store.
AAA members can also take advantage of the many member perks, like exclusive discounts, to save money. Below are some items that you can save on as a AAA member:

Don’t buy a year’s wardrobe in August.

If your student is still growing, there’s no need to buy all their new clothes during the back-to-school season now that might not fit them halfway through the school year. Stick to items you know they can wear right now and pay attention to out-of-season sales. You might be able to nab last year’s winter coat at a great price in the offseason.

Do think about buying secondhand.

Thrift shops, garage sales and online secondhand retailers make it easy and environmentally friendly to purchase gently-used items. Items like textbooks and backpacks are good candidates for buying used, as are kids’ clothes. You won’t worry as much about clothing getting dirty or too small when you didn’t pay as much for it up-front.

Don’t make all the decisions for your child.

back to school shoppingWhile it’s not the best idea to save money by letting your kindergartner choose all their school supplies and a new wardrobe, it’s also not the best idea to exclude them entirely from back-to-school shopping.
When you exclude your student and start buying items your student doesn’t like, you can overspend on supplies and clothes they’ll never end up using or even wanting. You’ll save money by eliminating purchasing unwanted items — and the inevitable argument over fashion choices that can result.

Do involve your student in the back-to-school buying process.

Even young children can learn valuable lessons about money, spending and saving when making them part of the action. If your student is hankering after a particular item, help them understand how much it costs. Depending on the item, encourage them to save up for it themselves.
Smart back-to-school shopping doesn’t have to be difficult with AAA. Members can save on dozens of popular brands –like Reebok and Tanger Outlets — every day just by showing their cards. Explore all the ways you can save at


RealSimple Magazine – How to save on back-to-school shopping
Consumer Reports – How to save money on back-to-school supplies and How to save on back-to-school shopping