Jill Cataldo

Jill Cataldo

Yes, it’s that time of year again – back-to-school sales have begun, and across the country, parents are buying everything from pencils and scissors to school clothes and new sneakers.

Whether you’re in a parental role shopping for a child headed to school soon, or someone without kids at home, this is a great time of year to stock up on lots of items at rock-bottom prices.

Many stores offer great deals on school supplies this time of year. In addition to spotting sales at office supply and big-box stores, keep an eye on drugstores too.

Over the years I’ve been school-shopping, I’ve found that some of the lowest-priced deals can show up at the well-known chain pharmacies.

How low can these prices be?

I’m on the watch for the “pocket change” sales – anything that’s priced between a penny and 25 cents.

Many retailers really do sell school supplies this inexpensively as loss leaders to get shoppers in the door, as they hope that you’ll buy many more full-priced items once you make the trip to the store.

Here are some of my favorite strategies for saving on school supplies, as well as the items everyone should be buying right now, even if no one is headed off to school.

Shopping for a student?

Resist the list temptation. When you get your child’s list of required supplies from his or her school, do not buy all of the items on it at one store.

If you do this, you’ll be overpaying for many common items that will go on sale for extremely low prices over the next few weeks. (If your school offers pre-packaged supply kits with all of the supplies for one price, these are typically not a good buy for the same reason – you won’t be paying pennies for most of them.)

Instead, keep the school supply list with you whenever you go out to shop, then skim the back-to-school savings ads.

I like to cherry-pick all of the penny-to-quarter sale items over a period of weeks. I may pick up pencils and glue sticks one week, and then grab notebooks and pens the following week.

In the week leading up to the day the kids go back to school, I look at what’s left on their lists.

Anything that I haven’t crossed off yet is something they still need, so I’ll pick those up. While you may need to pay regular prices for some things, it’s not likely you will have too many things left on the list, as most of the common items go on sale at multiples stores repeatedly over the weeks leading up to school.

Shopping for yourself?

You may not have a back-to-school list, but it’s highly likely you use office supplies at home.

Here are some of the items that you can stock up at incredibly low prices during back to school season:

Pens, pencils, erasers, highlighters, markers, glue, glue sticks, tape, spiral notebooks, filler paper, three-ring binders, folders, index cards, printer paper, scissors, accordion files, calculators, colored pencils, crayons, rulers, pencil boxes, zipper pouches, watercolor paints, sticky notes, dry erase markers and clipboards.

This is also a good time of year to find deals on other items children take to school, which aren’t specifically “school supplies,” such as disinfecting wipes, facial tissues, paper towels, hand sanitizer, earbud headphones and plastic storage boxes.

Knowing that I will likely not find 10-cent glue sticks and notebooks at any other time of the year, I especially like to stock up on these items.

As I have a home-based business, I go through a lot of both throughout the year. Additionally, with two children still in school, I’ve found that it doesn’t hurt to keep an additional supply of inexpensively-purchased supplies on hand at home in case they run out during the school year.

You may agree that it’s worth buying a few extra bargain-priced school supplies in August to avoid having to purchase full-priced ones six or seven months from now.

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