Don’t Let Extra Back to School Supplies Break Your Budget

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Before classes started, you probably got a list of school supplies to go out and buy. You joined the mad scramble and maybe even found everything in one place. And while those lists are supposed to be all-inclusive, there’s always something missing. Whether it’s an item that the teacher forgot or the one thing that the other kids have that yours doesn’t, you’re suddenly on a mission. Finding a way to fit the unexpected expenses into your budget doesn’t have to be stressful. If you’re lucky, these belated school supplies are things that you can pick up at the discount store. Here are some tips on surviving the last-minute rush for forgotten school supplies.

Classroom Supplies

As more schools are hit by budget crunches, they are asking families to donate specific items to the classroom. If your meager budget didn’t include school cleaning supplies, tissues and paper towels, these could be a surprise you didn’t need. If you have more than one school-age child, consider buying these in bulk and divvying up the load between classes and home for some extra savings. The price per item is generally lower in bulk packaging.

Binders and Folders

When choosing binders and folders, think about what it will be used for and what size and colors are more likely to be embraced by your kids. Spending less on something they refuse to use isn’t as practical as finding the “right” notebooks and binders that will be worn well and carried everywhere.


Even if they’re not on any classroom list, stickers are a status symbol of sorts in some social circles. They’re also inexpensive incentives. Use them to mark special days on your family calendar or on your chores chart at home. Stickers are fun for kids to bring to school and share, put on notebooks and make identical binders look different for each class. When you’re picking up the new essentials and your little shoppers are with you, just itching to be included in the process, let them pick out some stickers for school.


Planning for upcoming units in homeschooling has its challenges. Once you’ve chosen different programs for the kids, you’ll need to keep different units organized so that you can find what you need when you’re ready to use it. There are different methods to stay on top of everything, but using basic discount office supplies seems to be the easiest way. Pick out items that can be used again once the school year is over. Look for notebooks, bins, calendars and hanging folders that can be repurposed for summer crafts and work-at-home-mom organizers.

Plan Ahead with Your School Supplies

If you’ve come through the new list of must-haves and I-needs for back-to-school in relatively good shape, look out for the items that will no doubt run out during the school year. A few months from now, they’ll be harder to find. If you can squeeze these extra items into your frugal budget now, keep a stash hidden in a storage bin. Pens, pencils, notebooks and markers are good candidates for stockpiling or even buying in bulk. This will also help you to avoid the inevitable revelation an hour before your child has to leave for school that they have no pencils or paper and there’s a handwritten test today.

Nikki is an independent writer for Dollar Tree offers great deals on office supplies, party supplies and more.


Photo courtesy of: MeddyGarnet

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John is the founder of Frugal Rules, a dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry whose writing has been featured in Forbes, CNBC, Yahoo Finance and more.

Passionate about helping people learn from his mistakes, John shares financial tools and tips to help you enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. One of his favorite tools is Personal Capital , which he used to plan for retirement and keep track of his finances in less than 15 minutes each month.

Another one of John's passions is helping people save $80 per month by axing their expensive cable subscriptions and replacing them with more affordable ones, like Hulu with Live TV.

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1 Comment

  • Sam @ says:


    This is such an important article to be writing, as fall gets under way.

    When it comes to college supplies, I don’t think I’ve purchased anything in years! Hah. I just don’t need paper very often (have some leftover binders). Take my computer everywhere I go!

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