Back-to-school shopping savings tips

COVID-19 impacted schools for two years, and it seems inflation is the culprit this year. But with rising costs, many parents are cutting expenses and buying the basics.

Lifestyle expert Barbara Majeski said dollar stores, such as Dollar Tree and Dollar General, carry all the favorite brands.

"They've got Crayola, Ticonderoga, Wite-Out, Elmer's glue, [and] Scotch," Majeski said. "All your favorite brands. And they are at a great price."

The mom of three said parents are expected to spend $400 to $500 this season on back-to-school shopping. 

"Now, that includes the backpack, the school supplies, as well as the back-to-school clothing that everybody needs," Majeski said.

The discount store Five Below offers $5 backpacks for parents on a budget.

"Now is the time to get in and get your backpack and get what the kids like, and get into gear," she said.

The lifestyle expert says Staples and Office Depot are running great sales right now, with 25% off certain back-to-school items, including backpacks. 

"At Staples, they have an insurance plan — if the zipper breaks or the band breaks, you can actually get another replacement," Majeski said. 

Some big box stores offer additional discounts by simply downloading the app.

"Office Depot is offering one of my favorite incentives because everything you buy over the next year, 5% can go back to your school of your choice," Majeski said.

Majeski's 10-year-old daughter, Milena, is excited about shopping for 6th-grade fashion.

"I just love shopping," Milena said. "It's so fun."

But for penny-pinching parents, with no Advanced Child Tax Credit payments or stimulus checks this year, money is tight. Majeski said stores like Madewell offer quality clothing at a discount.

"Madewell has some really great clothes for the college student, as well as teachers," Majeski said, "and they offer a huge discount."

If you're looking for school uniforms, look no further than Kohl's, she said. 

Parents on a budget can get creative with saving dough, especially during hard times. 

"Create a get-together, a swap meet, so you maximize your time and limit your spending. Don't be afraid to reach out and say, 'Listen, I have a ton of stuff that I'm not using. Would you have something?'" Majeski said.

Also buy-now, pay-later options are available.

"You can go to an app called Afterpay that offers a wide selection of stores to choose from and divide it up into four monthly installments," Majeski said.

Subscriptions are a big hit for parents with disposable incomes.

"I've personally been using this Kidpik box — you do a personal assessment and every month they send them a box," Majeski said. "They get to decide what they want and send back what they don't. The best part is that everything is under $15."

Retailers and Services Mentioned