Where to Buy School Supplies

Jun 5, 2019

Whether you're going into a new year of college or you're currently trying to get your kids ready for their next year of school, you know back-to-school shopping can be difficult. You have to buy all the right school supplies, and sometimes it feels impossible to figure out what those supplies are. There are a few obvious ones, such as pens, pencils, and a new backpack, but some of them may fall by the wayside. Even obvious school supplies can be tricky to find and buy. When it comes time to get school supplies for the new year, don't miss these essentials.

Backpacks and Bags

This is one of the quintessential school supplies, the one that everyone knows about. Movies and TV shows even use the image of a kid walking with a backpack as a representation of being on the way to or from school. Make sure you get this one right, because you or your kid will be walking with that backpack or bookbag for at least the next school year.

  • JanSport designs and sells some of the most popular backpacks on the market. You can find their bags at numerous online and local stores. Their own website offers free shipping on purchases over $27.
  • You can also find a wide assortment of affordable backpacks from all types of brands at general retailers such as Kohl's.

Pens, Pencils, Markers, and Highlighters

Depending upon the grade, you'll need to buy different items from this category. Pencils are a good idea through all of school, because of their versatility, but as your children move into high school, they'll need pens in some instances. Permanent markers can be helpful for certain assignments, and highlighters are king when notes start playing an important role. Check office supply stores for the widest assortment.

  • Staples is well known for its variety of products.
  • Office Depot tends to have unbeatable prices in clearance sections.

Notebooks and Scratch Paper

You'll want to stock up on notebooks, especially as your child progresses into high school. At least one notebook for every class is the norm, but getting a couple extra is usually a good idea. You should also stock up on some loose-leaf paper, both lined and unlined.

  • Bulk buying can be helpful here; stores such as Sam's Club often offer family packs.
  • General retailers such as Walmart will usually offer a better price per item when you buy larger packages.

Folders and Organizers

Not everyone loves to stay organized, but having some form of organized chaos at the very least is helpful for everyone. Get an accordion folder for easy access to all the notes for every class, or invest in a number of file folders that you can use to keep everything separate.

  • Dollar Tree will usually have bare-bones file folders, making it the perfect budget buy.
  • Visit department stores such as Kmart for specialized or extensive organizers, such as accordion folders.


Your kid might not like using a planner, but it can be very helpful. It's also a useful skill to cultivate for the rest of life; high school habits can become general habits, and coaching your kids into writing down important deadlines and appointments can allow them to be more successful when they need to do it for their day-to-day life. Phone apps can help with this, but if you're trying to get them to spend less time on their phone, find a physical planner.

Calculators and Math Tools

It can be surprising how essential math tools are, especially in high school. Anyone who's going to be taking a math class should invest in a calculator, even if it's a very cheap one. Although it seems like everyone has a phone with a calculator, it's not always allowed in classrooms, and having one is a good backup plan. High schoolers will often need an advanced calculator, and certain classes in junior and senior year may call for math tools such as a compass or protractor.

  • You can often buy grade-school math tools during a general Walmart run, or even while you're shopping at your local Dollar General.
  • Office supply stores such as Office Depot will carry advanced math tools.

General Crafting Supplies

You might think of these as being mostly for kindergarten and elementary school, but they're actually used frequently in high school and even into college. These supplies include glue, scissors, tape, index cards, three-hole punches, rulers, white-out, and sticky notes. Tailor the supplies to the grade; kindergarteners should probably have a glue stick and not much else, while a college student will usually need all these in different iterations, such as white glue and super glue.

  • Hobby Lobby will generally be able to provide supplies, and will often be more focused toward hands-on, supply-heavy crafts.
  • Michaels or Jo-Ann can provide both supplies and craft ideas.

Dorm Furnishings

Moving into a dorm is exciting, but it's also stressful, and it can be very expensive. Dorms need a variety of furnishings, and probably items you haven't even thought of. Consider this quick list: a mattress, bedding, towels, toiletries, a mini-fridge, a microwave, a toaster, a coffee maker, utensils, pots and pans, a water bottle, plastic containers, and duct tape. Your new college student might not need all of these or may need ones that aren't on the list, but it's a good start. A variety of stores can help with these.

  • Use Ashley HomeStore to buy furniture.
  • Lowe's tends to have lots of appliances, both big and small.
  • Kohl's is a great place for general items, including bed and bath supplies that you need to set up a dorm.


Back to school shopping is hard work. Even getting the essentials out of the way can be a bit of a nightmare. However, you don't need to stress. With this list, you'll be able to organize everything you need. Stock up on these essentials with back to school deals, and you can get all your school supplies without blowing your budget.

Trending Back to School Advice

Apple's Best Back to School Sales

Jun 5, 2019

When it comes to back to school sales, laptops and electronics are a big-ticket item. Do you know how to leverage back to school sales for a better price?

How to Find the Best Backpacks for Students

Jun 5, 2019

Finding a backpack is an incredibly important part of preparing for the new school year. Do you know what to do if you want the best backpack in 2019?

A Guide to the Perfect Back to School Wardrobe

Jun 5, 2019

This back to school season, you're probably going to have to buy some new clothes. Do you know what you need to create the perfect back to school wardrobe?

2019 Back to School Sales - How to Get the Most Savings

Jun 5, 2019

Get the most out of back to school sales by following expert shopping tips. Making a list, shopping early, using other sales and other advice to save huge money preparing for the school year

See All Articles

Best Deals for Back to School

See All Deals