Getting what your child requires for school can be costly and difficult for budget-conscious parents. It’s particularly painful this year if you’re one of the estimated 30 million unemployed Americans.
We’ve done some of the legwork for you when it comes to finding free or discounted school supplies. Here are some suggestions, in no particular order:
- Go to EveryoneOn.org.
- Try your local food bank.
- Shop at Goodwill.
- Try an estate sale.
- Search your house.
- Don’t forget United Way
- Consider Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
- Don’t forget about actual stores.
- Talk to your child’s school.
Go to EveryoneOn.org
If your financial situation is particularly precarious – whether you’re on food stamps, live in public housing, or your child is enrolled in the National School Lunch Program – you can visit this nonprofit’s website. You enter your ZIP code, and it displays low-cost internet and computer deals in your city.
Try Your Local Food Bank
Some foodbanks provide school supplies to low-income children, so inquire if they have any. If your local food bank does not have it, chances are they will know where you can get it.
Some foodbanks have services that provide teachers with school supplies, which they can then distribute to their students. Teachers Help, a program administered by the Houston Food Bank, is an outstanding example of this form of arrangement.
Shop at Goodwill
As you’re probably aware, the nonprofit operates stores around the country that sell low-cost secondhand products. It’s worth a look if you’re looking for school supplies. Parents may usually find low-cost clothing, pens, pencils, notebooks, and files, as well as devices that students can find useful, such as earbuds and webcams, according to Kim Praniewicz, vice president of marketing and mission advancement at Goodwill Industries of Central Florida.
According to Praniewicz, it’s also a good thing for the setting. “Every year, shopping at Goodwill helps to remove more than 3 billion pounds of clothing and household products from landfills,” she says.
Try an Estate Sale
“Who has time for this?” most harried parents would probably think. However, Chris Castanets, owner of North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina-based Surf Financial Brokers, says, “As the executor of my father’s estate, I can attest to the fact that estate sales have plenty of binders, paper, and pens. We found plenty of supplies that could be used in school for a fraction of the cost of a retail store when looking for a successful estate sale business.”
EstateSales.net will help you find estate sales in your area.
Search Your House
Amanda Ramkissoon is a high school math teacher and the founder of the personal finance blog FrugalMomGuide.com.
“Believe it or not, looking around your house for free school supplies is my No. 1 tip,” she says. “Why spend money on new notebooks, markers, pencils, erasers, and other stationery when you already have plenty stashed in your desks and cupboards? Many of us have notebooks of just one or two pages that have been used. These books are as good as new until the used pages are removed. The same can be said for other types of office supplies. You’d be shocked by how many random pens and pencils you have to lie around your house, all in excellent working order.”
Don’t Forget United Way.
Back-to-school drives are popular at United Way, and the group distributes school supplies to families. You could visit its website and contact your local chapter to see if any supplies are available for your boy.
Consider Boys & Girls Clubs of America
This is yet another fantastic resource. Check with your local branch of the Boys & Girls Club to see if they have any school supplies.
Don’t Forget Actual Stores.
Walmart, Family Dollar, and Dollar General, in particular, are good places to look for low-cost school supplies. Consider Target, Costco, and a slew of other retailers. Yes, many of these stores have high-priced back-to-school products. However, if you have the time to look for bargains, you may be able to find some decent ones. Walmart, for example, has a section on its website dedicated to school supplies priced at $1, $2, and $3.
Talk to Your Child’s School
It’s not easy to contact your child’s teacher to ask for advice about where to get cheap or free school supplies. When the world is in the middle of a pandemic and an economic recession, however, there should be no shame in calling for free school supplies. You won’t be the only parent who makes contact with the school.
If the school doesn’t have any suggestions about where you can buy inexpensive or free school supplies, you may want to contribute your own.
You could recommend that your child’s school partner with the National Association for the Exchange of Industrial Resources, a charity that collects donations from businesses, such as school supplies, and distributes them to churches, colleges, and other charitable organizations.
Thousands of schools and teachers are members of NAEIR, and they choose materials from a list of merchandise. There is no membership charge for students, and shipping is also free (they may be asked to pay a small handling fee). Schools are also welcome to enter, but due to the possibility of ordering pallets of goods or things such as desks, they will be charged a freight shipping fee.
Teachers can contact the Kids In Need Foundation, which provides free school supplies to students in low-income schools. Teachers can also look into joining the SupplyaClassroom.org program.
However, if you’re dedicated and determined, you’ll be able to find free or discounted back-to-school supplies for your child in some way. Finding cheap mechanical pencils, notebooks, and laptops can be the easiest thing you do this school year, particularly if your child is going to class from your sofa and you’re playing instructor, principal, cafeteria worker, and hall monitor.