Tips and Tricks for Surviving Back-to-School Shopping

All good things must come to an end, including summer. With the end of summer comes school… and back-to-school shopping. Many parents dread this necessary task, but parents with years of experience have found ways to take the sting out of back-to-shopping and share their best tips.


Go without the kids.  Sure, kids like coming along to pick out their school supplies, but it can be so much easier to find those two blue folders and twelve glue sticks without little ones along for the ride.  

Check out School Tool Box, EduKit, Yubbler, and other similar sites. Some schools register with outside companies to put together boxes of school supplies by grade or classroom and sometimes the sites look for school supply lists posted online and make their own boxes that can be shipped to your home or directly to the school.  Some donate a portion of profits to your school.  

Image via Flickr/ PetrOlly

Shop at odd times, like early on Saturday morning when popular school supply shopping destinations like Target tend to be less crowded.  

Buy school supplies as early as you can once your child's school supply list comes out.  Although most stores start stocking school supplies early in the summer, most parents wait until shortly before school starts to shop.  Get your supplies as early as possible while stores are still fully stocked and to avoid crowds.

Divide supplies by each child. Some parents buy an inexpensive tote for each child and use that as their shopping bag for school supplies.  Not only do you stay organized, but the teacher can keep the tote for classroom use throughout the year.  If your child needs more than a bagful of supplies, consider purchasing an inexpensive rubber bin for supplies instead.

There is always one thing that the first store you go for school supplies doesn't have. Bring a pen along and note what is missing on the receipt for easy reference. Remember our tip about separating supplies by each child?  Pay for each child's supplies separately so that you can easily keep track of what each child still needs.

Order online! Ordering school supplies doesn't have to mean a special trip to the store.  Ordering can be as easy as logging onto your Amazon account or going to

Give your child a small budget to spend on something special.  You may want to stick to the basic blue pencil case, but your child may be dead-set on the one with the monster face. Give your child a set amount, usually ranging from $5 – $15 depending on their grade, that they can spend on upgrading supplies or buying something they insist they need that isn't on the list.  


Many parents also cautioned against complaining about back-to-school shopping in front of the kids.  Even if you hate the task, stay upbeat about school starting in front of the kids and avoid making it seem as though you resent your child's teacher for giving you a list of supplies in the first place.  Once the kids are out of earshot, however, feel free to complain all you like!

Take a deep breath!  You can do this.

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Tips and Tricks for Surviving Back-to-School Shopping

Jamie is a Beltway Insider who loves channeling her pre-motherhood love of traveling into spending time exploring all D.C. has to offer with her brood of two girls and two boys ages 9, 7,5, and a baby. She is a reformed lawyer turned full-time kid wrangler who enjoys photographing her everyday chaos and anything salted caramel. Since life is never dull, she loves writing about the issues and events going on in her life at any given time, including caring for a daughter with special needs and th ... More

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