6 Tips for Conquering Your Back-To-School Shopping List

June 8, 2023

Are you ready for back-to-school shopping? If you’re a parent, you’re probably eyeing the task with excitement (ah, the allure of fresh notebooks!) and maybe a touch of dread (that school supplies list keeps getting longer!).

You may also know that you won’t be the only one hitting the stores. Back-to-school spending per household averaged $864 in 2022. That means you may need a game plan to make the back-to-school shopping experience fun rather than stressful.

Here’s where to start.

1. Consult the School Supplies List

Yes, most kids want cute school supplies, but many classes have turned to a more uniform experience for their school supplies list. In some cases, that entails putting all the items from the school supplies list in one bin for students to grab as needed — all the crayons in one, all the glue sticks in another.

Some students may also have full or partial online courses. In that case, consider the remote learning supplies that your child may need for success.

So, consult the school supplies list, purchase the exact items, and then save the cute school supplies for your student’s own personal use at home. And while you’re at it, consider getting a few extra basics. Teachers often supplement supplies with their own budget, so it may be a good way to help with teacher school supplies. (You might even get them a couple of fun desk accessories while you’re at it!)

2. Buy Quality- Especially Lunch Boxes and Backpacks

There’s nothing more frustrating than shelling out for school supplies only to have something break after a few uses — lunch bags and backpacks are two common offenders. So, before you grab the nearest, cheapest item, try to make sure you’ve found one that can stand up to repeated use and washes.

For example, quality kids' backpacks might cost you a little more at first purchase but will pay dividends for years to come when they’re made with sturdy materials and zippers.

3. Don’t Forget the Extras for Good Science Fair Projects

Going off-list for other essentials during your back-to-school shopping trip can save you time and hassle in the long run. For example, you can stock up on supplies that will get you through last-minute art and science projects.

Good science fair projects may use supplies like display boards, glue, markers, and construction paper, making creating and presenting projects much more fun.

4. Leave Room for Cute School Supplies and Fun Desk Accessories

Yes, the school supplies list might have mandated No. 2 pencils, but once you’ve got the recommended items, you can let your kids have some fun choosing things like notebooks, erasers, and other school supplies and desk accessories for home or personal use. Items like these can be a great way to get your kids excited for the school year ahead.

5. Remember That School Supplies for High School and College Are a Little Different

If you’re used to the detailed school supplies list from the younger grades, you’ll find that high school supplies and college supplies are a bit different. In addition to basics like notebooks and folders, your child will likely come home with a syllabus from each teacher with a suggested high school supply list. These items may include a calculator or flash drive to store their work.

Upper-level grades may have partially online assignments, so you might want your child to have their own laptop. Better yet, students can connect handwritten notes to popular cloud services with a Rocketbook digital notebook.

College students will need to prepare a bit more than students in younger grades including getting a quality laptop and the tech essentials that go along with it. Academic calendars and day planners are also increasingly important for college students to manage their assignments. If your student is moving to a college campus, you may even consider some dorm furniture, such as an ergonomic chair for long study hours.

6. Consider Going Online for Any Last-Minute Items You Missed

While it may be a lot more fun to do your back-to-school shopping in the store, it can get crowded — especially when many families tackle their school supplies list at the last minute. Check out our Back-to-School supplies page to shop by grade and find everything your child needs to help make this their best school year yet!

A great option for back-to-school season is to shop items that you can buy online, pick up in-store or curbside. You can add all your back-to-school essentials to your online cart, purchase using the “Store Pickup” option, then head to your selected store location to pick them up. The free service comes with a 20-minute pickup promise, meaning your order will be ready for pickup in 20 minutes or less.

About the Author

Cathie Ericson is a freelance writer who specializes in small business, finance, and real estate.

All content provided herein is for educational purposes only. It is provided “as is,” and neither the author nor Office Depot warrants the accuracy of the information provided, nor do they assume any responsibility for errors, omissions, or contrary interpretation of the subject matter herein.