It’s back-to-school time again. That means school supplies and shopping. How do you manage the supply lists, the need to buy shoes that fit, and sundry of other miscellany your little scholar requests as they head back to school?
Curious to find out how others do it, I took an informal Facebook poll of 25 families asking how much money they spend and budget for school supplies, clothing and shoes. I also asked when and where they shopped. Here’s what I learned.

How much do you spend?

Most parents don’t budget for back-to-school supplies. One parent said she’ll spend $40 per kid for just supplies, while other parents say they’ll spend $200-$400 per kid for supplies and some clothes and shoes. Many parents say they don’t buy clothes specifically for back-to-school, so they don’t include that cost in their budget, however all polled said they buy new shoes for their kids right before school starts since their feet seem to grow over the summer.

The average American spends $208.10 per child and $428.39 per family on back-to-school shopping, according to a 2017 spending survey from

When do you shop?

Most parents shop in August just before school starts or right after school starts. However, Tax-Free Weekend (August 3-5) seems to be a popular time to do a majority of school supply shopping. One parent commented that she starts in July because if she waits until August, everything is picked over. Many parents say clothing shopping is an ongoing process and thus shop seasons ahead at season-end clearance sales or at semi-annual sales throughout the year.

Where do you shop?

Many parents say they find the best deals on school supplies at Walmart, Target, Staples and Office Depot. Next, they shop Amazon for the items they can only get online. A few parents suggest shopping second-hand stores and consignment sales throughout the year for clothing. Those that have children who wear uniforms take advantage of school clothes closets to buy others’ outgrown wardrobe items for cost savings.

One budget conscious mom has been shopping sales and stockpiling school supplies from year-to-year for the past 15 years and another mom dutifully uses a spreadsheet to organize her three kids’ supply needs, so she can shop around to get the best deals. Then there are the fortunate few who use school supply shopping programs at their schools—pay $23 and get everything gathered and ready on the supply list.

For the environmentally conscious, try asking your kids to reuse their book bag, lunchbox and other supplies from year-to-year.

This is just a sample of what some parents do to try to stay ahead of the back-to-school hustle and bustle to save money. It’s early still, so there’s plenty of time to use these tips to stock up on supplies to send your little scholar back to school ready.