Go Shopping for School Supplies Without Losing Your Sanity

Tampa Bay Moms Blog Guide to Shopping for School Supplies

My fellow Tampa Bay Moms contributor Brandi shared her tips for saving big on back-to-school shopping, and now I’m here to drill down into shopping for school supplies. From pencils and pens to notebooks and backpacks, does the thought of scouring the aisles for the perfect pencil box give you nightmares? Or do you revel in the scent of a brand new box of crayons?

Whatever your school supply shopping style, read on for tips to help you stock up your little scholars for a great school year.

Shopping for School Supplies 101 – The List

With any luck, your school already provided a list to help you start shopping for school supplies. Our school helpfully tucked the list into my son’s final report card last year, so we’re ready to go.

School supplies list
The holy grail of school supply shopping: the list.

Now, if you haven’t seen a list yet, try checking your school’s website. Sometimes teachers find out what grade they’ll be assigned in the summer, so they post the school supplies list then. Here are links to county school systems in the Tampa Bay area to help get you started finding your individual school:

Hillsborough County
Pinellas County
Polk County
Pasco County
Manatee County
Sarasota County
Hernando County
Citrus County

Shop at Home First

I admit I love shopping for school supplies. All those pairs of scissors, packs of pencils, reams of paper, and boxes of markers make me want to cut, color, and create something. But before heading out to soak in the awesomeness of the stationery aisles, keep in mind you might already have some of the items on hand. So grab that list you got from the teacher and hit your own supply shelf.

Supplies you may already have on hand.
Some of last year’s leftovers ready and waiting for new life.

Did you pick up extra folders last year? Maybe a glue stick or two hanging around? Will last year’s backpack still do the job? In the long run, checking your stash first saves you time and money when shopping for school supplies.

Shop When the Price Drops

A few days ago, I noticed a new display near the checkouts at my local Publix. Shelves of supplies like spiral notebooks, colored pencils, and wide-ruled paper sported the “BOGO” signs we Publix fans know and love. Immediately, I knew I must start shopping for school supplies. Turns out I didn’t have my school’s list that day, so you better believe I came back the next day fully prepared. After all, when the plastic folders are BOGO, you get one in every color.

Buy One Get One Free sale
Is there a more beautiful sight than a Publix “Buy One Get One Free” sign?

In addition to the regular store sales, the state of Florida also pitches in to help you save when shopping for school supplies. Each year the state sponsors a tax-free holiday that allows you to buy certain back-to-school necessities tax-free. This year’s tax-free holiday runs Friday, August 7, through Sunday, August 9, 2020. Generally, you can shop tax-free for most school supplies like notebooks, paper, pencils, erasers, tape, and the like. Besides the usual items, you can also pick up certain articles of clothing and shoes, as well as accessories like backpacks and bags (good time to grab a new purse for yourself, I’m just sayin’!). Plus, you can even save on some computers and computer accessories! The state posted a full list of items eligible for the sales tax holiday on their website. Print it out and take it along when you go shopping for school supplies.

Also, I try to collect things we need in smaller batches rather than buying it all in one big shopping trip. I find that I feel much more zen when I start earlier and buy fewer things. It just makes the whole process seem smoother to me. But I know some people prefer to get it out of the way all at once. You do you.

Loading up the shopping cart
I’m off to a pretty good start. Still can’t find that darn 3″ binder, though.

Online Shopping for School Supplies

Not up for the hustle and bustle of shopping for school supplies? I totally get it. Increasingly, we live in an online world, so you may just choose to point and click your way through your list. Alternatively, you can split your shopping for school supplies between physical stores and online retailers. In our case, my son needs a 3” binder for school, and we can never seem to find one that size in a store. Amazon to the rescue. Yep, we’ll likely order that bad boy online.

Also, retailers like Walmart and Target now offer curbside pickup. Order your items online, then drive to your nearest location to pick them up. No more searching picked-over shelves to find a red folder? Sounds great to me!

However you tackle shopping for school supplies, it’s all about making sure your students have all they need to succeed. And with a little prep and patience, you can sail through it with a passing grade, too.


Kathy K
Kathy’s family moved to Tampa when she was 5, and aside from a few years at the University of Florida (Go Gators!), she’s never lived anywhere else. She’s Irish by heritage, Greek by marriage, and mom to one brilliant little boy. She’s an avid sports fan and lived her Disney-geek dream as a member of the 2015 Disney Parks Moms Panel. A former TV producer and PR pro, Kathy now proudly sports the title of stay-at-home mom. Follow her sports-loving, Disneyfied, Tampa-centric antics on Twitter @kathyk671.