Back to School Sales Aren’t Just for Kids

by Kay Lynn

In My Backpack

Last week I got a $119 Microsoft backpack which will end up costing me only a few dollars tax.  How?

It was already 50% off but Staples ran a special where all backpacks were free after rebate.  The rebate didn’t even require a mail-in and I immediately submitted it online.

This time of year there are all kinds of school supplies marked down to ridiculous prices.  Just in yesterday’s ads I found the following:

  • 10 cent portfolios (Vons)
  • 5 cent protractor (Office Depot)
  • 50 cent notebooks (Target)
  • $1 photo paper (Staples)

 The stores want to get parents  in the door where you might buy more expensive items.  It gets me in the door but only to buy free and inexpensive items for four reasons.

Home Office 

Most of the supplies in our home office were bought for free or nearly free.  There are door busters throughout the year (just peruse the office supply ads each week) but the best are in the month of August.

Stock up on the types of things you need at home including printer paper, highlighters, mechanical pencils (I use these in budgeting) and photo paper.


Our children are long grown but there are occasions where we need a kid’s gift. If you keep a stash of gifts, keep on hand supplies that would appeal to younger children with favorite characters, designs or colors.

They can also make good items for Christmas stocking or party favor bags.


My church could always use supplies for the children’s education programs.  They need these virtually seven days a week as our church has a daycare in addition to providing childcare for parents who attend night meetings. 

Connect with the director and find out what kind of supplies they could use.  Crayons have been on sale virtually every week ranging from 20 to 99 cents.

Other Charities

Think about what charities might serve children and could use school supplies.  Shelters that serve families would probably welcome donations to distribute. 

Many of the cruises we take visit poverty-stricken areas.  Other cruisers have often taken aboard school supplies to donate to local schools and orphanages during the port stop. 


Do you buy at back to school sales and if yes, for any of these reasons?

photo credit: kate e. did

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Kristia@FamilyBalanceSheet August 2, 2010 at 6:29 am

We take advantage of these sales and I was thinking of writing a similar article too. We use the goods for stocking stuffers, donations to shelters, rainy day crafts, etc. There are definitely some great bargains. At no other time of year can you get a box of 24 crayons, glue or tape for 25 cents each or reams of paper for Free.

Bucksome August 3, 2010 at 5:49 am

Kristia, I’m glad there are others who partake in the sales. I never thought about buying these deals to give away until reading that tip somewhere else.

I do usually get printer and photo paper for free throughout the year (after rebate) but most of these items aren’t this cheap the rest of the year.

Printable Coupons August 2, 2010 at 6:59 am

Well, back-to-school is the perfect opportunity to buy all those supplies that you need for home use such as pens, folders, paperclips etc. Not only kids use them right? A little tip, buy in bulk. 🙂

Bucksome August 3, 2010 at 5:50 am

Good idea to buy in bulk where allowed. It’s important to pay attention to the limit. I believe Staples allowed two backpacks for free; but I only bought one.

Little House August 2, 2010 at 8:06 am

I also took advantage of the Staples backpack offer. I bought a $50 backpack and should receive my gift card within a few weeks. I’ll use the gift card for office supplies throughout the year, or sell it (many times you can sell a gift card for almost the full amount). I didn’t realize that Staples offers these deals throughout the year, though. I’ll have to keep a sharper eye toward for their flyers!

Bucksome August 3, 2010 at 5:51 am

If you sign up for some of the deal blogs, they highlight the specials for the major office supply stores. If I see something interesting, then I know to peruse the ads when they come on Sunday.

The Saved Quarter August 2, 2010 at 8:55 am

I’m bummed that I missed the Staples backpack deal, but I do take advantage of the many great offers this time of year to stock the craft cabinet. This year, my oldest is going to kindergarten (that noise is me holding back sobs!) and I’m stocking up on crayons and rulers for free and super cheap, plus Kleenex and hand sanitizer with coupons for his teacher.

Bucksome August 3, 2010 at 5:52 am

Saved Quarter, I didn’t even think of a craft closet (because I don’t do crafts, LOL). I love the idea of sanitizer. Bath and Body Works had a coupon good this past weekend for a free small size of hand sanitizer. I should have picked it up!

Joe Plemon August 2, 2010 at 11:34 am

I get so used to NOT perusing sales ads (might be a “guy thing” … I don’t think about shopping for anything unless I know I need it) that I didn’t even realize all the great deals out there. Your ideas of stocking up for gifts, church, etc are perfect. Now…I need to take advantage of these deals! Thanks for the post.
ps: As of today, I have been liberated from Akismet prison. Don’t know why I got arrested or why I was released, but being free is a great feeling.

Bucksome August 3, 2010 at 5:54 am

Joe, I’m thrilled you are free now. I was glad to get out as well!

I can’t take credit for the idea of donating but am happy to share it. I think “back to school” doesn’t pertain to us now that our kids are grown, but the sales are open to everyone and have great deals.

Squirrelers August 2, 2010 at 6:33 pm

I recently discovered this as well. Since I have a young child, I went to the store with her looking for some back to school items. While there, I noticed these composition books for 25 cents! I’m a bit too old to get excited about school supplies, but a 60-page bound composition book for a quarter was a fun find. I picked one up for myself and my father. Even he, as a grandfather, perked up when I told him inexpensive these were. Turned out to be a bargain for the whole family!

Bucksome August 3, 2010 at 5:56 am

Squirrelers, I bought a couple of those last year and they’re great for keeping track of notes. I also use one to journal when we’re on vacation (so I can remember details).

Donna Freedman August 2, 2010 at 8:00 pm

I buy them to donate to a social service agency in my area. Low-income families are desperate for school supplies.
Watch the drugstores, too, because they’re getting in on the act. I got a box of 24 crayons and a set of 20 markers free after rebate or Register Reward this week at Walgreens.
I’m going to hold on to these because my sister and I always adopt a family at Christmas. Inevitably the wish list includes “art supplies.” Crayons and markers are a start.

Bucksome August 3, 2010 at 6:01 am

Donna, thanks for the tip about drugstores. My closest one is probably waiting until next week for the sales (closer to the start date here) so I forgot about them.

I was surprised to see Vons (Safeway chain) have several school supplies deals. They’re not going to be competitive fo overall shopping.

I plan to follow the example of you and others that already donate these items. It’d be great to remove one more worry from a family.

The Saved Quarter August 3, 2010 at 7:35 pm

I got the same free markers and crayons at Walgreens, enough for my son’s back to school backpack and for stockings at Christmas. I also got a few $.09 rulers and $.19 notebooks.

Last year, CVS did killer back to school specials. I stocked our home office; they did a bunch of free-after-Extra Care Bucks making it all free. I’m waiting for those deals!

Bucksome August 4, 2010 at 12:24 pm

I noticed CVS didn’t have any good sales yet. I’m hoping they’ll come through in the next couple of weeks. I live within a mile of two of these stores.

Roshawn @ Watson Inc August 2, 2010 at 8:21 pm

This is a great idea. I typically don’t think about shopping unless I need something or anticipate a need in the future. However, picking up a few extras for gifts and donations is a great idea, especially at those prices. Thanks for sharing.

Bucksome August 3, 2010 at 6:02 am

Roshawn, a tip I forgot to publish is to get there early for the deals. We got to Staples 15 minutes after they opened for the free backpack and there was a frenzy in that section of the store.

Mrs. Not Made of Money August 3, 2010 at 7:30 am

I do have to buy supplies for the kids but I also make sure I stock up on stuff for our home use -paper, pens, pencils, etc. One year I bought lots of the crayons, colored pens, etc. and made “arts and crafts” Christmas gift baskets for the nieces and nephews.

Bucksome August 3, 2010 at 6:04 pm

Mrs. Not Made of Money, I love your idea of using these for gift baskets. I’m going to have to make sure to get more supplies before the sales are over.

Lynda August 9, 2010 at 11:56 am

Be careful with “character” themed items for children, you never know how long a shelf life they’ll have!

Bucksome August 9, 2010 at 3:34 pm


Good point. My kids were big into He-man and I’m sure kids today don’t know those characters.

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