It’s almost time for back to school – which means shopping for clothing, supplies, and backpacks. Waiting until the last week before school starts can get you great prices when there are sales – but the crowds can be maddening and the supplies can be low. You may even waste time and gas hopping from store to store to find that one green folder or pack of small dry erase markers the teacher wants.

Here are some easier ways to save money this back to school shopping season!

1. Delay some purchases.

Get the basics necessary for the first day, but remember that the kids really don’t need every single supply immediately. I’ve been known to send in some items weeks after school starts. For example; My teacher called for a box of tissues from each child (for classroom supply). That meant 25 boxes on the first day. Instead I sent a note letting the teacher know I’d send in a few boxes in December when colds are more prevalent.

2. Know your prices.

If a marbled notebook is on sale at 2 for $3.00 at one store, it could very well be 50 cents at a discount store. Try to remember which stores offer the best prices consistently and do your shopping there. Big retailers like Wal-Mart and Target often offer the best prices but office supply stores can be good too. Don’t forget the dollar stores for certain items too.

3. Know what’s in demand.

For middle schoolers with lockers, you may want to buy supplies early. By the time I went, the office store was out of locker shelves and locker mirrors.

4.  Keep some inventory at home.

Take inventory of art and school supplies you have at home before shopping. I have no problem sending in colored pencils that are almost full length and not in a brand new box. I’m sure most teachers wouldn’t mind this.

5. Buy extra.

If your combined school lists call for 7 folders, get 10 or even 12. Folders break fast around here. Stock up on loose leaf, pencils, glue sticks and erasers if possible.

6. Make the list and keep it with you.

As you buy each item, cross it out or delete it from your phone so you can clearly see what you have left to purchase. This way you don’t buy extras and have to trek back to the store to return them.

7. Separate wants from needs.

Especially for clothing … Most kids will need new shoes, new socks and some basics. Name brands may be a “want” and you can budget for special items.

8. Wait on the shoes.

Sometimes kids can grow a whole size in the summer, or more. Hold off on buying a new pair until closer to school. Same thing with pants, though many kids do start the year off in shorts, so you can buy pants in the early fall.

9. Comparison shop online.

Online shopping has saved me more than once.  Instead of searching stores for the particular style and size backpack my middle schooler wants, I head to Amazon and browse their great selection of sizes and colors.

10. Remember thrift shops.

For high-quality, previously owned clothes, visit a thrift or consignment shop that sells higher-end clothing. If you are on a budget your child can still feel like they are getting some new clothes and you can buy many more outfits.

11. Save even more on clothing. 

If your state has a tax-free week, you may want to head out shopping at that time (even if it means fighting the crowds). The savings can really add up!

How do you save when it comes to back-to-school?