Back-to-school shopping can add up quickly, with the need to purchase everything from pencils and crayons to clothes, laptops and sports equipment. Retailers love this! The back-to-school season is second only to the holiday shopping season in revenue.

If you’re looking for ways to curb the costs, try these tips.

1. Check the Supplies You Already Have

Last year, I purchased a package of Dixon Ticonderoga #2 pencils, only to open our storage drawer and find tons of Dixon Ticonderoga #2 pencils from the previous year. We don’t need that many pencils! You’d be surprised how many supplies (especially bulk items like pens, pencils and erasers) accumulate from year to year.

2. Stick to the List

Those back-to-school shopping aisles are so enticing, with their cute locker decorations and fun folders, white boards, and calendars. But you should stick to the supply list your school issued. Does your daughter desperately need that mirror for her locker? It might be time to negotiate some last-minute summer chores to help her earn the money for it. 

3. Buy a Few Items at a Time

During your weekly shopping trips over the next month, add a couple of school supplies to the list. This will avoid a huge bill the week before school.

4. Use Coupons and Apps

Yes, of course there’s an app for back-to-school shopping. In fact there are quite a few designed to help you find the best deals near you. And you can go old school. If you don’t receive a daily print newspaper, pick up the Sunday edition over the next few weeks, where you’ll find coupons to clip. Don’t forget to check individual store websites for deals and coupons to double your savings.

5. Buy Generic Brands

Are store brand glue sticks the same quality as Elmer’s? For many school supplies, you don’t need to get the name brand. But honestly, it can be trial and error. There is a difference between brands of #2 pencils. Your child’s teacher uses a lot of supplies throughout the year, and can probably make some recommendations on when to go generic or splurge for the top brand.

6. Ask the Teacher What Supplies Students Need Right Now

Especially in middle school, some supplies might not be required until the second half of the year. Teachers might specify what supplies are necessary the first day and which ones you have time to buy.

7. Don’t Think Too Many Seasons Ahead

Living in North Carolina, I always chuckle when stores show sweaters and pants in September as the temperature still climbs to 80 degrees. Budget for late fall and winter clothing items when the temperature requires you to do so, not when the stores say you should.

Back-to-school shopping doesn’t have to break the bank. With proper planning, you can stock your child’s backpack without the sticker shock.