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Your Money

August 16, 2023

9 Ways to Save on Back-to-School Shopping

Heading back to school always brings about mixed feelings: sadness that summer is ending and nervous excitement about the possibilities of the new school year. This year, parents may also be experiencing financial anxiety thanks to inflation and the pressure to pay for pricier school supplies.

Not surprisingly a 2023 back-to-school survey found that many parents plan to spend $597 this season —10% less than 2022 (source) – and yet, still a lot of money to fork out when many of us are tightening our purse strings.

If you’re a parent aiming to spend less this school year, you can turn a potentially stressful experience into a positive one… with a little bit of creativity and some planning. Read on for 9 creative ways to save money on back-to-school shopping this year.

1. Get your kids involved.

Together, create a list of items they will need for school. When it comes time to shop, take them with you. But before you head out, look around your house for items you already have and have your kids check them off their list. Reward them for their efforts in a way that doesn’t involve spending. Need ideas? Let them pick the movie for family film night. Better yet, let them also select the food they’ll eat. They’re rewarded for their efforts, and you have one less meal to plan. That’s a win-win!

2. Engage in painless saving.

Teach your children that by building good spending habits on the seemingly insignificant items (like school supplies, clothing, and groceries), they can increase their savings and not feel like they’re going without. Teach them it’s all about sticking to a budget and living within your means so that when financial emergencies— or amazing opportunities — arise, you’re prepared.

3. Buy second-hand books.

Purchase used textbooks online or in person, or opt to download digital textbooks. Consider temporarily borrowing print books or downloading e-books from your community library. Know older students who’ve taken the same courses your kids are enrolled in this year? Encourage older children to reach out and ask if they can borrow or buy their old books for a deal. You get to save a bit of money, and their friends get to make some of their money back!

4. Buy second-hand clothing.

Visit local thrift shops to purchase gently used clothing or trade clothes with family members, friends, and neighbours. You can even organize a clothing swap by inviting your network to gather their no-longer-needed apparel so you can have fun trading garments with one another. You can donate any leftover pieces to those in need.

5. Consider buying refurbished electronics.

Purchasing refurbished laptops or tablets can be an excellent way to purchase the necessary device at a substantially lower cost. Do, however, take caution by looking for a certified used model from a reputable seller or from the manufacturer itself.

6. Be fearlessly frugal.

Earn rewards. Use your points. Comparison shop. Combine your deals. Cut coupons. You don’t even have to literally cut coupons anymore! Instead, you can download them to your smartphone – or use the Flipp at to be the first to know about the sales at your local stores.

7. Save money by saving time.

You know what they say, time is money. So, if shopping in person doesn’t work with your schedule, order online. Look for online coupon codes and “cash-back” opportunities. Or try googling what you’re looking for with a specific question, like: What is the cheapest online store to purchase school supplies?

8. Pause before you purchase.

Taking a moment to ponder your purchase allows you to make better choices as a consumer. Does your child really need the item in question? If yes, do they need it now or can they wait until it’s on sale? It’s a great feeling to hold off on a purchase now, only to later find the coveted item in a price-slashing sale. It feels like you can have whatever you want… if you’re willing to wait.

9. Sign up to our mailing list to save!

From time to time, Serenia Life will be offering email subscribers exclusive discounts on Canadian-made products. To start, we’ve got a pretty great deal on back-to-school labels (and more) from Mabel’s Labels. Sign up today!

15% off Mabel's Labels for Serenia Life email subscribers

At the end of the day, it’s important to make the experience of back-to-school shopping positive and educational. Why? Because your children will come to associate your ‘fearlessly frugal’ attitude with the start of school, and with shopping in general. They will think back on these memories in the future and may even pass along their good spending habits to their own kids.

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