10 Ways to Save Money and Have an Eco-Friendly Back to School Season

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It starts in the last week of July… stores start putting out “back to school” signs and line their isles with backpacks, spiderman lunch boxes and locker organizers. The seasonality even extends into “student must haves” like new bedding, desk decor, and the latest gadgets.  Radio ads interrupt the music with comedy skits about excited parents ready to send their kids back to their desks. Memes circulate about Moms sipping drinks in the pool while their kids wear their backpacks. And because of this, parents everywhere are looking for ways to save money for back-to-school season.

The whole “Back to School Shopping Season” is another example of a marketing ploy to push parents into spending extra money. It’s the epitome of corporate greed.

The other cost that these sales seasons have is on the environment. Encouraging us to consume more, and purchase single-use (or single-season use) products, that will inevitably end up in a landfill. Do you want your children’s school season to have a negative impact on the ecosystem? So let’s take back control over the upcoming back-to-school season! 

10 Ways to Save Money For Back To School Season: 

1. Don’t Buy a New Backpack Every Year

Most backpacks are designed to be used for a single season. Invest in a better backpack that will last your students for multiple years. I bought each of my kids a North Face Backpack and they each have had them for 6-8 years respectively, with no sign of the kids “wearing out” the backpacks anytime soon.

2. Skip the New School Supplies

Before you take the list of assigned new school supplies, have the kids comb the house for supplies you already have. I’ll bet you don’t need NEW scissors, rulers, binders, and sharpeners. My kids challenged me on this once and I said, “Fine, any NEW supplies you need, you pay for!” And they somehow managed to find more supplies around the house and their list of what they needed went dramatically down (and then I paid for the consumables they actually needed). This is one of the easiest ways to save money for back-to-school season.

Mom tip: Make it a game – I find I always get more engagement when we play a game or issue a challenge. The game may be “who can find the most items off this list in our house”. 

3. Don’t Buy New Clothes

The September season is often warm weather and kids can still wear a majority of their summer clothes, extending them into the fall season. We don’t do a big “back to school shop,” feeling that it was manufactured pressure. Instead only buy the kids what they actually need, when they need it. They tend to get some clothes around Christmas and holidays, and if they WANT to go clothing shopping, they can earn the money and invest in that splurge themselves.

4. First Stop Shop – Thrift Stores 

When we need clothes our first stop is the local Once Upon a Child (I’m sad my kids are about to outgrow this store) with gently used items we’re able to source used clothing at a great price. I especially love these stores for the Christmas season when I can get dress shoes and nice clothes at a fraction of the price. 

5. Make Vintage Cool

Since my kids are outgrowing children’s clothing stores our next transition will be to go “vintage clothing shopping” at places like Value Village. I often look there too for my clothing. Anytime we can reuse an item I feel like Mother Nature sends me a little thank you in the wind. 

Mom tip: Have your teen go with a friend and make an adventure out of it. They will have fun scoring finds and helping each other put together outfits. 

6. School Shoes

Often on the “need” list is a pair of indoor shoes as well as outdoor shoes. Find out what the individual class requirements are before you invest in brand-new indoor runners as well as outdoor ones. Some teachers have strong preferences, sometimes they are needed for gym class, and other teachers encourage indoor crocs and comfortable slippers. Wait until the first week of school and then find out what’s right for your student. 

7. Band Equipment

Before you invest in purchasing a new instrument or renting, throw a post up on Facebook to see if any of your friends or relatives have one you can borrow (or buy). You’d be surprised how many kids’ instruments are collecting dust in neighbours’ attics! (which could save you hundreds of dollars in rental fees).

8. Find a “Dress Me Up” Buddy

I believe I was 3 years old when I received my first set of “hand-me-downs” from my cousin. 35 years later she is still packaging up her unused clothing and sending it to me for me to wear. So whether you call it a “Hand Me Down” or a “Dress Me Up” find someone that you can get clothes for your kids from, and pay it forward by finding another family you can gift your used clothing to. 

9. Skip The Subscriptions 

September is a great time to take stock of the subscription services you have in the house and analyze if you need them all. From streaming services to educational apps, to apps you forgot you subscribed to, do a deep dig and I bet you can save. Unsubscribing from one $5/month app will save you $60 for the year!

10. Save Cash and Cut the Waste in Your Laundry

In 2019 we transitioned to TruEarth laundry strips, an eco-friendly alternative that is cheaper and saves the massive waste that happens when using traditional laundry detergents. We order once per year and never have to worry about running out of detergent! Click this link to learn how you can save and why we recommend this to other families. 

There you have it! 10 ways to take control of your September shopping and create new norms in your family that ensure environmentally friendly and financially wise practices for your whole household. 

Do you have any great back-to-school tips? Comment below! 

About The Author
Jami Savage
Jami Savage
Jami Savage is one of the top Family Travel Writers in Canada, and has been featured on CTV and Vancouver Sun, and more. Go here to read our families story about how we went from backyard adventurers to world travelers, and how you can do the same. If you want to send Jami a quick message, visit her contact page here.
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Jami Savage

Full Time Travel Writer, Mom who is passionate about empowering and educating travelers on how you can use your own tourism dollars as a catalyst for positive change worldwide. Click here to learn more about us, our family, and how we lead an adventure filled life!

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