Back to school deals: What you need to make it through the year

I know it’s barely the beginning of August but you’re going to need to start thinking about getting back into the mode of being in school. Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves though. I don’t want you to start doing homework already!

Now is the time to start searching for great back to school deals. (Credit: Timedotcom)

Now is the time to start searching for great back to school deals. (Credit: Timedotcom)

We’re talking about shopping those back to school deals, and August is when those deals hit the shelves. Read on to get ideas for what you need to make it through the year!

First things, first

Avoid a rookie mistake: don’t waste money on all new supplies. First look through what supplies you already have and can reuse for the upcoming semester.

  • Start a shopping list on your phone so you’re sure to have it with you when you’re out looking for deals.
  • If you haven’t already, toss out/file the notes and papers from previous classes, emptying those folders and binders. I like to buy the three-ring binders that are large enough to hold all of my classes’ notes and assignments in them so I don’t have to juggle five different binders.
  • Next, look at your supply of pens, pencils and highlighters. If the highlighters are dry, toss them; if your mechanical pencils need lead, write down the correct size on your shopping list. Have an abundant supply of black pens, but want blue or red to use for editing papers? Add only the desired color onto your shopping list.
  • Check out your notebooks and loose-leaf paper supply. Depending on your preference, recycle/reuse your notebooks for the next semester or purchase new ones to replace. Helpful tip for the organizationally-challenged: Much like binders, I prefer five-subject notebooks so I can keep all of my notes in one place.
  • Items such as hole punchers or copier/scanners can generally be found in your campus’ library, so don’t waste your money on items you’re not likely to use very often.

Where the deals are

Some stores, such as Staples, have had back-to-school deals out since the end of June! Weren’t keen on shopping that early? Don’t worry, you didn’t miss much. Deals are still going on and you can find them on Brad Tuttle’s July 31, 2014, post “A+ Back-to-School Deals Prices from 1¢ to $1” for Time Money. Tuttle listed deals that are available around the country in Staples, Office Max, Office Depot, Walmart, Walgreens and some dollar stores.

He also suggested that you check with each specific store to see whether deals are available online, in store or both. Oftentimes, you save the most money when stocking up on items such as one-subject notebooks and pencils, so shopping with your roommates may be a good idea.

If you’re a real bargain hunter (and have the time to spend) Staples has offered a price match guarantee. According to their website, “If you find a lower price on a new identical item, just show us the lower price when you buy the item at Staples and we’ll match the price—plus an additional 10% of the difference.” This includes items found on Amazon, as long as the item is sold and packaged by Amazon, not an independent seller. This could take some time to figure out, but I found that you’ll save a lot of money if you:

  • Do the research on your computer (be sure to check model/product number)
  • Email yourself the link(s) for the lower-priced item(s)
  • Open the link(s) on your Smartphone in individual browser windows
  • Have your Smartphone ready to show the cashier when checking out

Clothing and dorm room essentials

Because being a college student is expensive and supplies aren’t the only thing you need for the upcoming year, you probably want to know where to get deals on clothes and dorm room essentials, too.

  • Plato’s Closet: Not only can you find great gently used and new clothing at a deep discount; you can sell your unwanted items as well! Check out their website for a list of locations. Look for end-of-season deals, too!
  • Bed Bath & Beyond: Hopefully you’ve been collecting all of those 20%-off-one-item coupons this summer. If not, you can sign up on their website for deals to be emailed to you. Remember, you can use one coupon per item (not one per transaction as is often thought!).
  • Costco or Sam’s Club: A great place to buy snacks in bulk to keep in your room/apartment. Memberships can be pricey so make a date to go shopping with mom and dad or your favorite aunt who has a membership! Plus, you’ll get some quality family time in before you head back to school.

And the books

Don’t forget that for your textbook needs, CengageBrain has your back! Check out CengageBrain contributor Nicole Reinard’s August 4, 2014, post “This week only buy an eChapter, get the 1st eChapter free at!

What are your favorite back to school deals tips? Tell us in the comments.

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