Back to School Savings: Save Money While Saving Mother Earth

girl on school bus

The National Retail Federation reports that families spend an average of $603.63 to prepare their children to head back to school. If this seems a bit excessive to you, check out our eco-friendly tips for minimizing your back-to-school expenses.

Saving Money on School Supplies

Pencils, pens, notebooks, folders, backpacks, and other basic school supplies are inexpensive to purchase on their own, but the overall cost of these items can add up if you're buying for more than one child.

Reuse Supplies from the Previous Year

The easiest way to get back to school savings is to check to see what supplies can be reused from the previous year. Children do not need new backpacks, notebooks, folders, and pencil cases if these items are in good condition. If they want the thrill of having items that look different, let them decorate their supplies with stickers, fabric markers, or iron-on patches.

Look for Free School Supplies

If your family frequently attends fairs and parades, watch for businesses that are giving away free pencils, pens, and tote bags that can be used for school supplies. Sometimes, businesses that cater to families will even have free crayon boxes that are given out as promotional tools.

Saving Money on Clothing

Obviously, there is no rule that says your child needs to have an entirely new wardrobe on the first day of school. However, you will still likely need to purchase a few items to replace what has been stained, ripped, or outgrown.

Thrift Store and Consignment Store Shopping

Thrift store or consignment store shopping is a wonderful way to save money while saving the environment. When you shop at these types of establishments, you're helping to keep useable items out of the landfill. However, looking for clothing can be tricky if you're shopping for a picky teen or someone who wears a smaller or larger than normal size. Start shopping for clothing as soon as possible in order to give yourself enough time to locate all of the necessary items.

When looking for back to school clothes for your child, keep in mind that some stores will allow you to exchange outgrown clothing for store credit that you can use to reduce your out-of-pocket clothing expense. Once Upon a Child and Plato's Closet are two examples of stores with such policies.


If you have younger children who aren't too picky about what they wear, thredUP is a timesaving alternative to thrift store shopping. This site lets you swap a box of your child's outgrown clothing for a box of clothes in the size that you need. You can search the database for clothing by size, gender, and keyword. Each box listing has a description of the contents. Some of the boxes include children's toys and books in addition to clothing items.

thredUP is free to join. It's free to send a box of clothes, but you need to pay $5 plus shipping if you wish to purchase a box of clothing for your child.

Saving Money on School Lunches

In most cases, packing a cold lunch is cheaper than allowing your child to purchase lunch from the school cafeteria. To cut expenses even more, pack an eco-friendly zero waste lunch.

Pack Lunches with Reusable Materials

To save money while saving Mother Earth, invest in reusable materials for packing your child's lunch. Although purchasing reusable silverware, sandwich bags, water bottles, and snack containers can require a significant initial investment, these items will save you a great deal of money throughout the course of the year. is one example of an online retailer that specializes in providing eco-friendly items for packing a zero waste lunch for your child.

Make the Most of Leftovers

According to the EPA, approximately 33 million tons of food ends up in a landfill? One way to cut down on the amount of food your family wastes is to incorporate leftovers into your child's lunchbox. Many dinner recipes result in a small amount of leftover food that might not seem worth saving for another family meal, but is actually the perfect size for using as part of a child's lunch the following day. Bentology has several creative ideas for packing healthy and affordable school lunches, including many tips for using leftovers from the previous night as part of a new meal.

Get Your Child Involved

When shopping for back-to-school essentials, remember to involve your child in the process as much as possible. Children who pick out their own supplies tend to be more eager to head back to the classroom. In addition, taking this opportunity to teach your child about the importance of saving money while saving the environment helps promote smart shopping habits that will last a lifetime.

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Back to School Savings: Save Money While Saving Mother Earth