Creative School Supply Shopping – Frugal Beyond The Sales

Preparation for back-to-school often means a big dent in the budget and lots of time on the road going from store to store… sale to sale. You may have already clipped coupons and searched the internet for every possible deal you can find, but there are a few places you may want to consider shopping before you venture out to your local retail stores. Let’s take a look at some creative ways to find frugal school supplies.

At Home

The first place to “shop” will save you both a lot of time and a lot of money. Consider shopping your own closets, drawers, and piles of clutter. I know from my own experience that I have accumulated quite a collection of freebies from promoters like real estate agents, politicians, churches, non-profit groups, and assorted business owners. These groups often use items printed with their names and logos to introduce themselves – pencils, pens, erasers, rulers, highlighters, and even carry-all bags or backpacks. If you’re like me, you save every last one of these items in a drawer or box somewhere in your house. Now is the time to go see what you’ve got.

Again, a penchant for ‘squirreling’ away everything you can get your hands on may pay off. If you have been piling up those folders and binders that you receive every time you get a new insurance proposal or policy, you can now put those items to use. Your child may not want the logo of some company on their folders or three-ring binders, but a few stickers or decorative adhesive paper can solve that problem fast.

And don’t forget your own needs for school time. Old three-ring binders will come in handy for you, too. Use one for school announcements and other papers, like school calendars, class picture announcements, and the like. Get a few envelope style dividers, clear work well, and put every loose paper in there when your child brings them home from school. Now you know where everything is. Tape a weekly or monthly calendar on front and you have an organization masterpiece.


One of the more unusual places to shop for school supplies is the drugstore. Many drugstores have a section of school supplies with prices that rival the big retail stores. When it’s back-to-school time, drugstores pull these supplies up front and center because they want to get rid of them fast. They are not in the business of selling school supplies, but they want to get you into their store rather than lose you to the ‘big stores.’ That means lower prices to you, with the hopes that you’ll shop the rest of the store while you’re there.

Resale Shops

Thrift shops and resale shops may surprise you, too. When people who do not have school age children clean out their junk drawers, they will very often toss those extra pencils, pens, and notebooks in with other items they are donating to thrift shops. Many people never get out of the habit of collecting these supplies, even after their kids are no longer in school. When the junk drawer gets full, it’s off to the resale shop.

School Supply Drives

Some communities hold ‘school supply drives’ sometimes with the help of local radio or television stations. If you are unable to afford the kind of school supplies that your child requires, these community events may be able to help. Your child’s school will lead you in the right direction to find one of these drives.

Your own child’s school may directly receive donations, as well. Some folks will make a donation of supplies to their favorite school, either by returning their own child’s unused supplies or by purchasing new items to help families who are on a tight budget.

When your budget is tight, you need to get creative when it comes time to provide items for your child’s return to school. Instead of getting in line at the big chain store, try taking a different path to discover really big savings on back to school supplies.

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