Back-to-school is here, and no matter what grade your kids are in, from kindergarten to college, you’re likely going back-to-school shopping. Is it just us, or does it seem like each year the shopping list gets a little bit longer? And while sure, pens and notebooks are only a couple dollars, those costs can add up. And they really do: According to the 2019 Huntington Bank Backpack Index, the average high schooler is required to purchase $1,668 in school supplies this year — whereas BTS cost them $800 13 years ago.
Luckily, there are a host of back-to-school freebies, discounts and deals available for parents and students alike. If you’re on the hunt for savings, here are all the back-to-school freebies families must know about.
One of the best free tools to help your kids with their studies is Microsoft Office. Students can get a Microsoft 360 membership, which includes Excel, Word, Powerpoint and more for free, with a valid student email address.
Apple offers great discounts and freebies come back-to-school season. This year, the technology retailer will gift students a free pair of Beats wireless headphones with the purchase of a Mac or iPad. The promotion ends on September 26. Students and teachers can also get five percent off any purchase with a valid ID.
Arts students, rejoice: Adobe offers full-time students deep discounts on a variety of their products, including 60 percent off a Creative Cloud membership, which includes Photoshop, Illustrator and more.
Other tech discounts
Looking for more student deals on technology supplies? Dell offers a number of online deals for computers, audio equipment and keyboards. Microsoft offers 10 percent off all tech accessories for students with an ID. Lastly, students with a valid school email address can register for Sony’s Student Store membership and get up to 10% off online merchandise.
Textbooks aren’t cheap, especially the older your child gets. Amazon offers free online textbooks on almost every subject, including composition, earth science and statistics — and even SAT prep. The textbooks are available for download for Kindle or your computer.
If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you also have access to over 18,000 books for free (students get 50% off a Prime membership with a valid school email address.)
The retail chain is always running promotions, including “buy one, get one” deals or $5 off, especially close to the start of the school year. It lists all of its current special offers and promotions on its website.
It’s never been easier for your child to stay in the know: Major newspaper chains offer discounts on their subscription services for students with a valid school email address. Deals include a student discounted rate for The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
Parents of younger children can get downloadable, printable workbooks and coloring sheets online from Scholastic. You can find everything from reading and writing resources to parent resources. The publishing company also offers supplemental math lessons for students grades Pre-K to middle school. Resources include games, lesson plans and activities.
The cheapest place to get school supplies? The Dollar Store. While the chain may not have expensive supplies (like a graphing calculator or computer) you can stock up on the basics for cheap, including pencils, notebooks and planners.
Kids of all ages can get discounts on clothing at retailers like Banana Republic, J.Crew, Levi’s and TopShop. Discounts range from 10-20%. Have your child bring their student ID to get the discount.
Larger retailers like H&M, Macy’s and Kohl’s offer discounts when you sign up for their loyalty programs, too. Make sure to check your email after signing up for extra coupons and discounts — and take advantage of free shipping for large orders if you’re doing your shopping online.
For college-bound kids, there are plenty of deals and discounts on transportation services. For example, bus line Greyhound offers 20 percent off online tickets with the Student Advantage Discount Card. Amtrak also has a Student Advantage Discount Card that gives students a 10 percent discount on tickets.
If you’re willing to do the extra work of clipping coupons, you can find a number of great back-to-school coupons at major retailers like Office Depot, Wal-Mart and Walgreens. Weekend newspapers also typically have extra coupons for school supplies. Lastly, you can find plenty of coupons online for specific products. While it takes a little bit more work, the discounts may be worth it for individual items.
Some states denote specific weekends in August and September for tax-free back-to-school shopping. Parents can get clothing, computers, books and school supplies tax-free in their state. Though tax only makes up a small percentage of your overall purchase, those savings can add up over time.
What to do if you’re in a bind
If your back-to-school shopping list becomes more costly than what you had budgeted, it’s best to look for freebies instead of going into debt.
If you’re in a pinch and need more supplies, contact your child’s school. Chances are they purchased extra school supplies for children and parents. Sometimes teachers will denote part of their classroom budget to buying extra school supplies for their students. Or you may have better luck contacting your school’s district — they often have a program set up that gives donated school supplies away.
Lastly, there are a number of charitable organizations, like Operation Backpack, that offer free school supplies. Contact your local chapter to learn more.
While this annual shopping spree can be stressful on you and your wallet, the best way to handle your ever-growing to-do list is to make a plan. Setting a budget, doing your research and hunting for the best deals will keep your shopping as smooth as possible.