The first day of school is knocking on our door! My daughter is starting middle school this year. She'll have six classes and six teachers. This means that instead of a list of supplies from one teacher, she now has six different lists.

I started to panic as I began adding it all up in my head. My husband is out of work and I'm a struggling freelance writer.

Then I took a deep breath and dug into research. I started subscribing to coupon and budget saving blogs. I found some great info and my panic began to subside.


Here are some of the tips I learned:

  1. Office supply companies sometimes issue coupons! When you combine these coupons with sale prices, you might even be able to score free items. I used a dollar-off Office Mate products coupon at Target. They had a ten-pack of the brand's pens on sale for a buck; this made them free.

  2. The office supply stores offer amazing sales on school supplies all summer long. Check the Staples, Office Depot and Office Max websites weekly for their current specials. Staples has several items for just a penny each week. We've gotten index cards, folders, binder divider tabs and more for just a cent. I've also been stocking up on printer paper each week. After the rebate, which is easy to submit online, it comes to a dollar a ream.

  3. Walmart price matches! Head over there with all of the advertisements for the office supply stores. They'll match the prices and you'll only have to hit one store. This saves you time, stress and gas.

  4. Pick up supplies second hand. We found a brand new zipper binder at Goodwill. The same one sells for $20 new. We've been able to score several other items off my daughter's school supply list at thrift shops, consignment stores and garage sales.

  5. Use what you have. I was very poor growing up and was always jealous of the kids who got a new backpack and lunchbox each year. It's important to me that my daughter is able to choose fresh ones at the start of a new school year. (Fortunately, we found a backpack and lunchbox set for a great deal by combining a sale with a coupon!) I realized that she probably has other items from last year that still have a lot of life to them. I finally went through the overstuffed backpack she came home with on the last day of school and found folders, notebooks, binders, scissors, pens and pencils that are in great shape. I happily crossed those items off my list!

  6. I read on a savings blog that many stores discount a large portion of their school supplies by as much as 90 percent in the fall. I plan on stocking up. This way I'll have extra on hand to replenish supplies midyear and I might even have enough to get off to a good start when back-to-school shopping approaches next year.

My daughter's school requires uniforms - and they have to be bought from a specific local store with the logo embroidered on them. They are quite pricey, so I'm thrilled that I was able to pull together the rest of her school supplies, including a brand new backpack, for under $50. I spent a good chunk of time investigating sales and I have made many trips to the various stores over the summer compiling the supplies. But the savings have been well worth the effort to me.