With back-to-school shopping just around the corner, it can be overwhelming to determine what school supplies offer the best bang for your buck and when to splurge or opt for the cheaper option. In a study conducted by Quantum Metric on school supply spending habits, 41% of consumers reported spending $500 on school supplies while 1 in 5 spent up to $1,000 in 2022. Amid rising inflation, that’s a steep price point for parents and students to be spending this year.
In order to help you save on school supplies, GOBankingRates has compiled a list of the items that are worth splurging on — and some secret hacks to find these items for less. Let’s take a look at the list so you can prioritize quality on just a few items, and opt for a cheaper option for everything else.
1. Sports Equipment
The back-to-school season also means sports are starting up again. Sports equipment can quickly get pricey with uniforms, protective gear, balls, tools and nets, not to mention the rising cost of gas and the expense of just traveling to and from games and practices. In order to cut costs on sports equipment — without sacrificing quality — consider buying secondhand. One great option is PlayItAgainSports, an online store that buys and sells secondhand sporting goods. The online shop offers low prices for gently used equipment and allows your child to continue playing the sports they love without taking a major toll on your budget.
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2. Music Equipment
Many schools offer music classes throughout the year and give students the opportunity to learn an instrument during the school day. This often requires students to bring their own instruments to class. Once again, investing in quality is important, but for families who may not want to commit to purchasing a brand new expensive instrument, they might want to consider purchasing this item secondhand. One website for them to consider is Reverb, a website where you can buy or sell secondhand musical gear and instruments. Facebook Marketplace, Letgo and eBay are also great options for finding secondhand musical equipment at a fraction of the cost.
3. Fancy Calculators
While scientific calculators and graphing calculators come at a steep cost, this back-to-school item is well worth the investment. Not only is purchasing this type of calculator required for many math and science classes in high school and college, but prioritizing quality for this buy will allow you to pass down the calculator through siblings or friends, or even resell it after use. A TI-84 Plus Graphing calculator currently costs $99.34 at Walmart and the slightly fancier version, TI-84 Plus CE, sells for $118.01 on Amazon. To save on a quality graphing calculator, check out sites like eBay where many sellers list TI-84 Pluses for around $50.
4. Pilot G2 Retractable Gel Ball Pens
While a five-pack of these gel pens falls at $5.62 at Walmart and the price per pen might cost a little more than the cheaper 20-pack of BIC pens, this is an investment that’s well worth it. These pens are an ideal option for students because this smudge-proof pen will make their writing easy to read and allow them to have neater handwriting and a smoother writing experience. Additionally, students won’t have to worry about this pen leaking in their pencil case or backpack and leaving a mess. For just under $6, it’s a fantastic buy for this year’s back-to-school season.
5. Digital Storage
While 20 years ago it might’ve been common for students to buy flash drives during the back-to-school season, today, students need to buy digital storage before classes start up again. For those who use Apple products, an additional 50 GB of storage costs 99 cents per month and an additional 200 GB of storage costs $2.99 per month. For those who need more Google cloud storage, an additional 100 GB costs $1.99 per month.
Purchasing additional storage is a low-cost essential for the school season and enables students to access and download all of the materials and websites necessary for the school year without worrying about storage. Using more digital products also lightens students’ backpacks as they don’t have to carry around binders of papers and worry about printing out work and turning in projects in person.
From planners to desk caddies, bins and file cabinets, there are many organizational tools available that can help students declutter their space and keep track of their assignments. These items are well worth the splurge as investing in these organizers will help you stay on track with your schoolwork and extracurricular activities. A simple planner can help students cultivate strong organizational and planning skills that will last a lifetime.
7. Mechanical Pencils
When shopping for pencils this back-to-school season, be sure to prioritize quality over quantity and invest in one or two high-quality pencils. Pencils have a tendency to disappear, and by only purchasing one or two high-quality ones that don’t squeak or fall apart easily, you might find yourself keeping a closer eye on these items. A 24-pack of cheap mechanical pencils may be a tempting buy and great for loaning to friends, but investing in just a couple of high-end mechanical pencils will be well worth the investment in the long run and keep you from constantly needing to re-buy poorly-made pencils.
While fun pens and accordion-style sticky notes are an exciting school supply, perhaps the most exciting back-to-school buy is a new backpack. While younger students may be more prone to spills and recess activities that don’t cater to a high-end backpack purchase, this splurge is well worth the cost for high school and college students looking to find a backpack that will last them years. Brands like The North Face, Carhartt and Patagonia carry high-quality backpacks with lifetime warranties in the price range of $40 to $100.
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