Baby &Kids · Back to School

Five Non-Traditional Places to Buy School Supplies

When you think about back-to-school shopping you probably think about big box stores like Walmart, Kmart and Target. While these stores certainly carry a large selection of supplies they don’t necessarily sell the least expensive ones. If you want to save a little money this August check out the list of stores below. These stores are hidden little treasures for the best back-to-school bargains.


Search through the weekly circulars of stores like CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens and you are bound to find extremely low prices on pens, pencils, composition notebooks, tape, binders and glue. To reap the best deals you may have to sign up for store loyalty programs, which include Extra Care, Plenti and Balance Rewards. Most of these programs enable you to earn points that work like store coupons toward future purchases. For example, if you spend $15 on specific back-to-school items you’ll earn $5 back in points. You can then use those points for anything else you want or need in the store.

Dollar Stores

Dollar stores like Dollar Tree and Family Dollar offer all sorts of back-to-school supplies like pens, pencils, highlighters, crayons and markers. Dollar stores are also great places to find composition books, spiral notebooks and plastic binders. These won’t necessarily be the most robust items, (they may wear out more quickly then items purchased at big box stores), but for the price you can purchase twice as many items and keep half of them as back-ups.

Warehouse Stores

Costco, Sam’s Club and BJ’s Wholesale Club offer bargains on a rotating basis. During one trip to a warehouse store you may find the cheapest price on dry erase markers and mechanical pencils. On another visit you may find deeply discounted prices on lunch bags and backpacks. Some bargains can be found in the front of stores while others are found in the office supply aisle. Take an extra long walk around the aisles in August to make certain you don’t miss a back-t0-school bargain. Costco has an incredible return policy, so keep track of which items you bought there. If the zipper on your kid’s backpack breaks mid-way through the school year you’ll be able to return it for a full refund.

Craft Stores

If you need colored pencils, markers or construction paper then craft stores like Michael’s and Jo Ann Fabrics may be the place for you. Wait for these items to go on sale or use printable in-store coupons to lower the price. At least once a month you can find coupons for 30 to 40% off a regular priced item and when you shop in store you typically receive an extra coupon at the end of your receipt. Purchase one item and then wait to see if a coupon prints before paying for anything else.

Craigslist, Freecycle and Facebook Groups

If you are comfortable picking up items from perfect strangers then you may want to search for school supplies on websites like Craigslist or Freecycle. If your neighborhood has a community email list or list serve feel free to put out a query for unwanted school supplies. The same goes for any local Facebook groups you may belong to. You never know when a parent has leftover supplies from older children who no longer need them.

This year stretch your back-to-school dollars. Search for bargains and freebies at the non-traditional locations mentioned above.