Back-to-School Budgeting Hacks that you Need to Know

Back-to-school Budgeting Hacks that you Need to Know

It’s back to school season! That means a new year full of learning, growth, and… super expensive school supplies. It’s no secret that back to school season burns a hole in everyone’s budget, and some the items we’re buying seems pointless! What could a fourth grader possibly need white out for? And why should a college student have to pay $100 on top of already-expensive tuition and books to be able to access their homework? It can all be very frustrating, so this week, we’re going to dive in to what you can do to save money when you’re back to school shopping.

Elementary and High School:

Most elementary schools (and some high schools) give a list of things that need to be bought for the upcoming school year. The items on that list can very quickly add up, but these tips can help keep the cost down.

  • Before going anywhere, go closet shopping. Chances are, you already have a lot of items that you need. Pens, pencils, binders and folders that are still in good condition are all things that most people have around their house. Reusing items that you already own are an efficient way of cutting down your back-to-school cost.
  • Go to the Dollar Store.  Before hitting up big box stores like Walmart and Target, go to the Dollar Store. You can find basic school supplies like loose-leaf, high lighters, and erasers there for literally a dollar. Most school supply lists ask that you bring things like tissues and hand sanitizer as well, which can again be bought at the dollar store.
  • Go to TJ Maxx for agendas. For some reason agendas are incredibly expensive (like $40 each expensive). TJ Maxx has a variety of agendas that range from around $5 to $15.
  • Avoid the trendy items. While a themed notebook, folder, or backpack is fun; they are not built to last. These items are expensive and tend to fall apart by the middle of the school year.
  • Take out a tuition loan. In a place like New Orleans where a lot of students go to private schools, tuition can take a really big hit on parents’ budgets. POECU offers tuition loans 


Back-to-school season for college is expensive. Between fee bills, $500 textbooks, and $100 access codes, it seems like college student can’t catch a break. Don’t worry though; I’ve mastered the art of saving money on college supplies, and I’m about to pass those tips on to you.

  1. Avoid buying the textbook new at all costs. I have found that in most college libraries, the textbooks that you need for class have been placed on reserve for students to use. At the beginning of the year, find out if the textbook that you need is available in the library. If it is, scan the pages that you’ll need for class and save it to your email or a flash drive. That way, you’ll have everything that you need for the semester, completely free! If the book isn’t available at your library, see if you can find the book used on Amazon or Ebay (even if it is a few editions older than the one your professor recommends). Buying them off of Amazon will be a lot cheaper than buying them used from your college bookstore.
  2. Reuse notebooks. There’s no need to buy new notebooks unless the ones you’re using are completely filled. If you have a class that has multiple levels, use the same notebook for all levels. That way, you save money and have the added benefit of having the notes from the previous course readily available, should you need it.
  3. Sorry, you have to buy the access code. One thing I’ve always found blatantly horrible is the fact that college students now have to pay to access their homework (on a sub-par program, no less). On top of paying the tuition and fees to enroll in the course, you now have to pay between $65-$200 per semester to get the online access code for the homework (per class!). This was done because textbook companies found that more and more people were buying used books, so in order to make more money, they convinced colleges to assign online homework that students must pay to access. My advice here is to buy the access to just the homework, not the homework and textbook bundle. Access to just homework is usually around $50-$100 cheaper than the bundle, and if you have the textbook in your library, there’s no use to buying the text book, anyway.


Back-to-school season is expensive, there is no doubt about that. These tips should help lessen that burden to make this season a little easier for you. Let us know if you have any tips of your own! We’re all about budgeting and saving money, so let us know on our Facebook or Twitter if you have any back-to-school budgeting hacks; you may get a shout out!

Rachel Morris