How to save on school supplies

By Valerie Battaglia

Back to school photo by Adonyig / Pixabay.

The National Retail Federation reports that families will be spending record-breaking amounts on “back to school” shopping this year; the average household with college-aged students are budgeting $976.78 for supplies, which is the highest amount ever recorded by the NRF.

$976.78 is a cumulative total, accounting for the cost of clothing and electronics, as well. To break it down, the NRF’s survey shows the average college student intends on spending:
• $148.54 on clothing and accessories.
• $234.69 on electronics.
• $120.19 on dormitory and apartment furniture.
• $98.72 on food.

College shoppers are relying on online retailers, department stores, discount shops, college bookstores, and office supply centers to gather what they need for the school year, the NRF states in their report.

However, you don’t have to spend nearly a thousand dollars to go back to school in style and equipped with the tools needed to succeed.

A “dollar store” is arguably one of the most inexpensive places to do your back to school shopping. You could gather packs of pencils, pens, highlighters, glue sticks, a notebook, a binder, and a ruler for $7.

Although, you do get what you pay for: pens or highlighters may not glide as well, binders may fall apart, and so on, but replacing supplies from the dollar store won’t be as much of a burden on your wallet. Styles and selection may also be limited at these stores for those who prefer colorful, niche, and unique supplies.

Local discount office supply centers are another viable option. “Deals Office Supply Store” in Media, Pa. carries various name brand products such as “Mead,” “Moleskine,” and “Decomposition,” for a fraction of their retail price.

“Amazon” is a global online retailer that will allow you to purchase everything you may need for the school year all in one go – with the added bonus of free one to two-day shipping for Amazon Prime members. Discounted prices are another perk of being an Amazon Prime member.

College students are eligible for a free six-month trial of Amazon Prime. Once the trial ends, students have the option to continue their Prime membership at a discounted rate of $6.49 per month.

Back to college image by SteveBP / Pixabay.

For those looking to reinvent their wardrobe this school year, thrifting allows you to purchase attire for pennies on the dollar. Plus, if you’re currently onboard with the vintage fashion trend that’s been dominating over the last few years, it’s your one-stop shop for authentic clothes from the ‘80s and ‘90s.

Some thrift stores throughout Delaware, Chester, and Philadelphia counties gravitate towards a certain aesthetic. One shop may specialize in vintage clothing, while another next door may specialize in antique styles. Then, there are stores like “Plato’s Closet,” which focus on reselling clothes that are more recent and “on trend” with current retailers.

You may also reinvent your style through “upcycling,” the process of repurposing old clothes by altering them. Upcycling could be as simple as taking an old t-shirt and cutting off the sleeves or tie dying it. Alternatively, you could let your imagination run wild and completely transform old or used clothes like YouTubers Annika Victoria and Coolirpa do.

Upcycling is something to keep in mind while thrift shopping, as you could take your thrifty finds and turn them into something entirely new (and entirely unique, too).

There are ways to purchase new clothes at discounted rates, as well. The “Honey App” quickly saves consumers money while shopping at over 30,000 online retailers by automatically pulling active coupons from across the internet and applying whichever are the most cost effective. With over 10 million users worldwide, the “Honey App” has saved consumers over one billion dollars so far, according to their website.

Users in the United States have access to the Honey Gold feature, which gives a percentage back on sales from over 4,000 participating stores. Honey Gold can then be used to redeem gift cards; every 1,000 points is worth $10.

Furthermore, retailers throughout the United States began launching their “back to school” sales as early as July. “H&M” advertised their school clothing sales via email newsletter on July 26, and many are still running specials.

Now that we’re approaching fall, stores across the country are clearing out their summer collections, which include t-shirts and other essentials to wear throughout the year.

Back to school shopping will inevitably dip into your pockets, but it doesn’t have to dip deep or leave your wallet screaming. Class supply lists provided by professors lay the foundation for budget planning, but there are other expenses that may creep up throughout the semester. Utilizing the suggestions offered here, in addition to your own thrifty ideas, will cut costs significantly – and as the old saying goes, “a penny saved is a penny earned.”

Contact Valerie Battaglia at

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