7 Ways to Save on Back-to-School Shopping

Helpful tips to keep you on budget


It’s time to gear up for a new school year. That means getting back on a normal routine, pulling out those fall clothes and, of course, back-to-school shopping. 

Sending your kids to school with the supplies they need helps them get off to a good start. Balancing that with your budget, though, can be tricky. From lunch boxes to loose-leaf paper and everything in between, back-to-school purchases add up. Especially if you’re shopping for a few kids.

Back-to-School Spending

Every year, teachers and schools prepare thorough lists of supplies each child will need. And in 2019, the National Retail Federation projects families with children in elementary, middle or high school will spend an average of almost $700 apiece on back-to-school shopping.

The key to keeping your family’s costs down? Researching deals and sales—and doing your homework to find the best prices. Here are seven tips that can help you check off the items on your child’s list without breaking the bank.

1. Wait for the Official School List

It may be tempting to get your shopping out of the way early. But if you want to save some cash, wait for the official list to avoid stocking up on supplies your child won’t need.

And don’t just wait for it—stick to it. It’s easy to throw a ton of extra items into your cart, especially if you’re shopping with your kids. Sure, those designer journals look fun. But if you’re on a budget, staying focused on the list is a smart choice.

2. Take Stock of What You Already Have

Before you head to the store, take a look around your house. Did your child use all eight glue sticks from last year? How about the four boxes of crayons or six boxes of tissues? 

There may be some carryovers that are also on this year’s list. A little due diligence can save you some cash.

3. Get the Most for Your Money with Wikibuy

Before you pay full price, find the best coupons and deals on the items you need with Wikibuy® from Capital One®

Wikibuy is a free online shopping tool that makes saving time and money easy. Say you find a backpack online your kid will love. Wikibuy automatically locates valid coupons and applies them at checkout. When you shop on Amazon®, Wikibuy instantly checks thousands of other sellers for a better price.

If you’re not happy with the discounts or coupons it finds, Wikibuy will add items you’ve viewed to a watch list tailored just for you. That way, you can keep an eye on that backpack—and matching lunchbox—for any future price drops or discounts. This can be a real money saver, especially during busy retail shopping seasons.

You can start using Wikibuy by visiting the site or by adding the browser extension.

4. Remember, Less Expensive Isn’t Always Better

It’s probably OK to buy bargain paper since your kids will blow through it quickly. But when it comes to items like three-ring binders and backpacks, it may be better to buy higher-quality, more durable choices. These items get a lot of use—and can wear out quickly. So consider lasting quality over lowest price to save yourself money in the long run.

5. Watch for Tax Holidays

Check to see if your state has a sales-tax holiday. If it does, you may be able to save on big-ticket items like computers and electronics—not to mention new school clothes.

6. Get a Little Help from Your Friends

Whether it’s your first time or you’re a seasoned pro, back-to-school shopping can be hard on you and your budget. Why not team up with some friends to save some headaches as well as a few dollars?

Combine your lists, and buy in bulk to save money. Look for buy-one, get-one deals and bundled purchases. Your daughter may not need a pack of 10 spiral notebooks, but it could make sense for multiple families. You can sort out who gets what colors later. If you pool your resources, you just may come out ahead. And you may even have a little fun.

7. Plan Ahead for Lunches

Buying lunches every day can add up. Consider sending your kids to school with lunches you make at home. A little planning can go a long way. Here are some helpful tips to make meal prep less taxing—and keep some change in your pocket.

  • Stock up on reusable containers. It may cost a little more up front, but it could save you money in the long term.
  • Build your own single-serving snacks. It’s tempting to grab convenience foods for kids’ lunches. But you may be paying for that convenience. Consider buying in bulk and portioning out in reusable containers.
  • Prepare lunches during weekends. Set aside an hour on the weekend to prep for the week ahead. 

Back-to-school season doesn’t have to be stressful—for you, your kids or your bank account. You can set everyone up for success with some advanced planning and comparison shopping. Your kids will have exactly what they need to get off to a great start—and you’ll keep extra cash in your wallet.


We hope that you found this helpful. Our content is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice or to indicate the Capital One product or service is available or right for you. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consider talking with a qualified professional.