Helpful Back to School Savings Tips from an Expert Thrifty Mom

back to school text next to a backpack with school supplies

Back to school savings tips

Anyone else remembers that Staples commercial with a dad pushing a shopping cart and the song, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” playing as he danced along and his children lagged behind sulking? My mom LOVED that commercial and the magic was lost on me until I had children of my own in school. (sorry mom-I get it now!) I’m counting the days until school starts. We have three in school this year and kids are expensive. So, here are a few back to school savings tips for shopping this year. 

Before school ended last year, I pre-purchased my older two kids supplies. My school’s PTA participates in a program called school toolbox that has supplies broken down by grade and you find the school, click the grade and done! No lie, it was the easiest thing ever. I have done Amazon Prime in the past and this was even easier than that. I may have paid more for that, but, if you notice I’m all about online shopping. Dragging three kids to any store is never something I look forward to. Plus crowds make me anxious and trying to look for specific items while controlling excited kids makes me cringe.  

Price compare!

For the sake of this article, I am going to assume you all want to shop online and I am going to use Target, Walmart, Kohls and Old Navy as my stores. To make it easy I am keeping the same articles of clothing in my shopping carts: 5 polos, 2 skirts/skorts, 2 dresses because my school does uniforms. (it is the best thing ever!) I also am only picking one kid to do the ‘shopping’ for.

We will do our shopping during the tax-free weekend which is August 7-August 9th this year. Another tip for online shopping if you leave stuff in your cart sometimes they will email you a coupon. And please make sure you give yourself plenty of time for delivery or do in-store pick up if it’s offered! And sign up for emails from the places, as they will send you info on sales and deals that can help you out. (Like the $40 backpack my daughter wants with the $15 lunchbox that matches.) 

Some Apps

I use the app Retail Me Not often to find deals. It will list them by location so I don’t have to worry about signing up for emails or being a loyal customer. Plus while shopping at Target online, I got emailed a coupon for 3% off.  If you are shopping online, don’t forget to use Ebates now called Rakuten! Using Rakuten/Ebates would save me 5% at Walmart, Target is 1%, Old Navy is 2% and Kohls was 3%. I know it seems small but every little bit helps! If you aren’t familiar with Ebates, it gives you cash back through a check after every so often for using their app or using them online. It even works on Amazon. 


I normally buy uniforms at Old Navy because my kids are small and need those sizes. Old Navy has promotion codes for back to school items including uniforms too. Before I added any coupons the total was $117.87 (!) I added two codes (that they provided) and it went down to $73.50. 

Putting those same items in my cart at Kohls, before any coupons or discounts, my total was $159.44. I used my Retail Me Not app and got a few codes bringing my total down to $127.58. If you are an avid shopper at Kohls, you can use Kohls cash to stack-up the savings. I also price shopped at Walmart with the same items. My total was $73.33 and my price at Target was $118.48. 

With that info in mind, if you want a one-stop-shop, you may want to stick with Walmart. I personally don’t even leave my house and do as much as I possibly can online. I am not braving the crazy back to school shopping with three kids plus online deals are sometimes better than in-store sales. Whatever route you take, either online or in-store, scan the adds, sign up for the emails and deals and download all the apps. And don’t forget your patience. 

Can’t get enough savings, check out Kathy’s post on how to save your school supplies!

What are your favorite back to school savings tips?


Brandi Eatman
Brandi Eatman was raised in Ohio before moving to Florida in 1999. She has been married for ten years and has three children. On the weekends, Brandi and her family enjoy being outside and going to all the area beaches, and they are avid college football fans. Brandi is a photographer who loves to read and spend time with friends and family and enjoys her almost daily boot camps. Her guilty pleasures are crime tv shows, tacos, too much cream and sugar in her coffee, and Ohio State football.