Five Clever Ways to Save on Back-to-School

clever ways to save on back to school


It was weird to see so many first day of school pictures online this morning, but kids around here go back to school this week. Every time I think about this time of the year, I feel a little sick. Not only does it mean my summer break is over, but it also reminds me of the stress and expense of that enormous shopping list. Even though our school supply list is now minimal, I thought I would share some clever ideas for school savings that I’ve discovered along the way.


  1. If your child wears basic uniform attire that you don’t need to purchase from a specific store, try to hold off from buying too much right now. A lot of stores are going to have uniform items on sale a couple of weeks after school starts, and you’ll be able to stock up for the rest of the year. Pick up a size larger too if your child is growing like a weed. You’ll be glad you did when you need it and have to pay full price later in the year.
  2. Make a list and check prices and availability across a variety of stores. Get your friends involved and share information with them. If you grab the class supply list and three friends, you can each price check one store and compare. Now you are all getting the best deals.
  3. Don’t forget about quality. You are not really saving money if you buy the 5 cent folders that rip to shreds after the first week of school. The same is true for polo shirts that pill or get holes. Don’t go overboard though. My son used to manage to get holes in the knees of pants even though I got him the good Lands End pants with iron knees. Eventually, I just made him wear shorts. Also, I decided not to spend $35 on those pants when he tore them up at the same rate as a less expensive pair.
  4. Look for coupon savings available through apps like Ibotta or Target Cartwheel in addition to the store’s advertised sales.
  5. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. If last year’s clothes, shoes, or gear still fits, God bless you. Make use of those things at the start of school and look into getting something new when back-to-school goes on sale. A new backpack also makes a good birthday or Christmas gift.


Bonus Savings Tip: Stay at home. I used to dread back-to-school time. New backpacks, uniforms, sneakers, lunch boxes, loads of expensive school supplies, deposits on back-to-school activities, soccer shoes, tap shoes, ballet shoes, jazz shoes, soccer uniforms, and leotards. Back-to-school could easily run over $1000 for two kids. Plus, the stress of needing to find that exact pencil case or risk being chastised by the teacher. None of that. We are starting our homeschool year next week, and back-to-school has cost me less than $50. I buy things through the year when they are on sale, find a lot of free material online, and choose products that we can use for a long time. I’ve learned to be a lot more efficient over time. I’m not really suggesting that you homeschool just to save money, but it is just one of the many benefits.

KBC money finance education review

Review: Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees

KBC money finance education review

For the past few months I really wanted to try the Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees lapbook from Knowledge Box Central. So, I was really excited for the opportunity to complete the Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees Grade 5-8 lapbook with my kids this summer. Disclaimer: Knowledge Box Central provided the download to me free of charge, but I am not being compensated in any other way for this review.


As a college finance professor, I am deeply concerned about the financial education that children receive. I’ve seen and heard about too many college students who are completely clueless about personal finance. I am also skeptical about the quality of a lot of financial education products on the market targeted at elementary and middle school children. It takes a lot to impress me, but Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees did just that.


Some of you may be worried about being able to explain advanced topics to your children. If you are feeling that way, don’t be intimidated. The study guide included with the lapbook gives clear and easy to understand explanations of each topic. You may even learn something right along with your children. I didn’t always follow the guide exactly because I sometimes found that I wanted to take a different angle with my kids. There are countless ways to customize this lapbook for your children and school. Both my 4th grader and 6th grader completed Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees over two weeks, but you could finish in as little as one week or as long as one month depending on how much time you spend working on it daily as well as how many outside resources you use to enhance the learning experience.


money doesn't grow on trees lap book review


Both of my kids said that their favorite parts were learning about how money is made and exploring careers. We watched some Youtube videos about printing paper money and its current security features along with the minting of coins. If you live near a mint, the Treasury, or a Federal Reserve Bank, those would be some great field trips to take as part of your study.


money doesn't grow on trees lap book review


The two things I liked best about Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees were the sections on banking terms and exploring careers. Banks offer a lot of products and use a lot of words that even adults may not fully understand. This lapbook, however, does a great job of defining terms, providing examples, and giving students an opportunity to put their knowledge into practice with an activity. After completing the lapbook, my kids could hold a conversation about interest rates, inflation, loans, and deposit insurance.


money doesn't grow on trees lap book review
My 4th graders completed lapbook


My second favorite part of Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees was exploring career with my kids. Students choose a future career that interests them and research expected wages and required training for their career. Then, they use this along with expenses you help them estimate to build a budget. If you have a child set on a career that does not pay very well, this can be a real awakening for them. Depending on the career path, you may have difficulty finding accurate salary estimates. For example, my kids chose professional Youtuber and professional video game player. I suppose that given our unconventional lifestyle, I should not have been surprised by their unconventional career aspirations. This is also a good time to start talking about college preparation and career options.
money doesn't grow on trees lap book review
My 6th graders completed lapbook


There was only one part of the lapbook that I didn’t really like. After students choose their career and estimate living expenses, they use these numbers to build a budget. The lapbook introduces the envelope system of budgeting and asks them to practice using the system. The envelope system has been promoted by one financial advisor in particular, and it’s great if that works for you. It is not my preferred budgeting application and simply was not necessary to the exercise, so we skipped it.


Would I recommend this? Absolutely. You can get this lapbook for middle schoolers from Knowledge Box Central or this version for younger students. If you try it out, click back on over here and let me know what you thought.

Review: The Centsables Dash for Cash App

Note: I was not paid or compensated in any way for this review. The review was purely for educational and informational purposes.

Centsables Dash for Cash Review

I wanted to explore some financial education apps for kids as part of Financial Literacy Month. The Centsables Dash for Cash app is free on the App Store for your iPhone and iPad. Since I am not the target audience, I downloaded the app and let Luke (my son who turns 9 in two weeks) test it out and provide the information for this review.

Luke quickly figured out that the goal of the game was to catch the falling cash so that you exactly meet the dollar amount you are given at the top of the screen. Catching too much money causes you to lose points. The levels start out with coins that fall from the sky slowly. As you progress through the levels higher denominations bills start to fall from the sky in addition to coins. The money falls a little but faster with every level, and there are new obstacles that get in your way. Criminals want to steal your money, so you need to stay away from them. At one point I heard Luke muttering that the stupid criminal was a pain in the neck.

Centsable Dash for Cash Review

Rating: Luke rated this game 1.5 out of 2 thumbs up. He had fun playing the game and said it is definitely something he would play again. Luke recommends the game for kids around his age and said it is good to practice counting money.

For more information, you can link to the Centsables here:
Web site