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Saving Money on School Supplies

Category Supplies
Photo of a back pack, colored pencils, paper and other school supplies.
Every year, the list of school supplies seems to get longer. There are ways to minimize the expense of school supplies while still getting everything your child needs. This is a guide about saving money on school supplies.
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August 23, 201111 found this helpful

Now is a perfect time to take advantage of some really great sales bargains, not just for back to school supplies for your children, but also for your own home office needs. This time of year is when I stock up on anything from printer paper, note pads, post it notes, pens and pencils, to items such as scotch tape, staples, and glue. Comparison shop at assorted stores and you'll be surprised that you can easily purchase a year worth of supplies for up to 75% off.

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By Deeli from Richland, WA

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By 11 found this helpful
May 24, 2012

Sending a child to school is so expensive! At the beginning of the school year the school sends you a list of things the child will need. Parents rush out with this list, piling their baskets high. Add new clothes to the mix and you are going to shell out a lot of money. And at the end of the year these supplies come home and most of the time, are forgotten.

After raising three children, and retiring, I find myself the mother to an 8 year old. And I have learned to send this little lady to school, and to do it frugally. My daughter is very well dressed and has plenty of top notch supplies. And here are some of the ways I do it:

Yesterday my daughters school year ended and she cleaned out her desk, coming home with her backpack bulging. Time to prepare for next year. I unloaded it and separated things into piles, "reuse next year", "let her use this summer", and "trash." A lot of items the school requests in certain amounts, but the kids end up not using them.

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The colors that were mismatched and broken, my daughter can use them this summer. Half used color books and workbooks were placed in the use this summer pile.

The plastic pencil box had color marks on it, but otherwise was in fine shape. A little hot water and a quick rub with a Magic Eraser made it as good as new; it can be reused next year.

My daughter not only had a rather large amount of glue sticks unused, but several that she had used maybe once. Several sticks were pretty well emptied and they went to the trash. A cotton ball saturated with rubbing alcohol took off the excess glue, and her name written on them with Magic Marker. I allowed them to dry, re-wrote her name, and placed them in baggies. This August I won't need to buy them, either.

The same with lead pencils, erasers, and her scissors. Smudges and dried glue wiped off with an alcohol soaked cotton ball. They won't need replacing, either.

My daughter prefers to take her lunch. Her insulated lunch bag was looking pretty rough, but I was amazed at how nice it ended up looking after a rubbing with Fels Naptha soap and a run in the washer. Her sandwich box and large mouth thermos received a good scrubbing, too. They all look new again.

The backpack is pretty ragged, but it will work to carry things with her on little trips this summer.

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After all the reusable items were cleaned and packed in a box, it was time to check out the closet. A few months ago I cleaned out her closet and packed her winter clothing away. Now I need to pack some warm weather items. My daughter prefers "skorts" in the early fall and late spring, and since they have an elastic band, and were a bit long on her in the first place, she won't be growing out of them by August. I made sure they were all clean, stain free, had no rips or tears and packed them in a box. Also her nice pullover shirts that will still fit her when school restarts.

Her shoes she will probably outgrow so when she is not running barefooted through the grass this summer, she can wear them. Same with panties, socks, and any clothing that probably she will outgrow.

During the summer I will go to yard sales looking for items she may need when school is ready to start again. I will keep a list in my car. (backpack, shoes, etc.) At a recent sale I picked her up a pair of name brand sneakers, probably only wore once. A trip through the washer, they look new. And they are one size bigger than she is wearing now, so they should be perfect size when school starts again.

When school begins and she heads to school in her neatly ironed outfits, I doubt if anyone will notice they were not purchased a week ago. Most likely they will notice how nice she looks. :-)

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By 8 found this helpful
June 1, 2010

In most areas of the US, school will be over soon. The last thing on everyone's mind right now is the next school year. But this is a relatively painless tip that doesn't take much time and will surely save you money.

When the kids come home on the last day of school, don't just put the backpacks in the closet. Go ahead and empty them out; tossing out the short pencils, used workbooks, etc. If there are usable art or other school supplies, put them in a safe place for next year. At my son's school, he had to purchase his own art class supplies and I reused the same paint colors and magic markers because of their light use. If you have a supply list for next year, put that in a safe place as well so you will have it when the back to school sales start.

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Finally, inspect the backpacks. Can they be used again another year? I'm not sure where the practice of a new backpack every year started but if you start out with a sturdy one they can be used for many years. Toss it in the washer and give it a good cleaning. When dry, hang it back up and it will be ready and waiting for you at the end of summer.

By wendiesioux from Edwardsport, IN

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By 5 found this helpful
July 23, 2010

Whatever happened to my FREE public education? Honestly, between "renting" the required text book; the locker, sports fees and equipment; yearbooks; required school agenda (which never gets used because of its inefficient format; necessitating the purchase of one that actually gets the job done!); and boxes of sanitizing wipes, paper towels, tissues and hand sanitizer required for the classrooms; composition notebooks, loose-leaf paper, graph paper, binders, pencils, TI-83 calculators and the like I am out more than $400 before I buy the first pair of new shoes (we'll not go THERE in this post).

So, how is a frugal mom supposed to save some cold hard cash this time of year? Glad you asked! And, BTW--you are going to spend much more than you save this time of year, so take an aspirin before proceeding:

  1. First, you must have a plan which includes knowing what you are required to provide for your student. Thankfully, our school makes back to school packets available in mid-July before the back to school sales begin in earnest. Don't buy a lot of stuff that is not on the list because it may not get used!

  2. Stock up - this is a must for the frugal mom. Peruse the Sunday ads, making plans to shop around and only purchase the best deals at a variety of stores.

  3. Purchase 2-3 times the number of items on the list (if 7 composition notebooks are required, purchase a minimum of 14-21 to assure mid-year replacements are available at a reasonable price). At 25 cents each 14 notebooks will cost you $3.50. Should you fail to purchase the necessary replacements for later in the year you'll be lucky to find these for a $1.00-so stocking up is critical and your net savings throughout the year is over $11.00. I also purchase crayons, glue sticks, colored pencils for arts and craft project, Christmas and Easter gifts and my Operation Shoebox at this time of the year and store them away. Apply the same strategy to folders, pencils, lose leaf notebook paper and 3 subject or 5 subject spiral notebooks and any other school supplies.

    For my college kid I employ the same strategy and even use this time of year to buy new toilet brushes (yes, they are on sale for $2 less than the normal price and I make a habit of replacing them every year at this time), wastebaskets, sheet sets, and small appliances are on sale too (for your personal use, as a replacement, Christmas gifts or wedding showers you know are coming up)

  4. Develop a storage system - No one likes to use a bent or tattered notebook. After all, new supplies are the highlight of returning to school for some folks, me included. Therefore, storing your purchases in pristine condition until you need them is a requirement. I use a plastic drawer bin, but an under the bed box or any secure container which will keep out the dust is satisfactory! DON'T purchase a new storage system, that defeats the frugal part of this post - use what you already have!

  5. Get Freebies - make sure you take advantage of any BOGO free offers, rebates, and don't forget to pickup any free samples (pencils, post it notes, hand sanitizer, chip clips, and caribiners seem to be popular items this year) at your local state fair or community event. Put these in your storage system as you accumulate them over the course of the year.

  6. Keep your receipts and don't be afraid to return the UNUSED binder that was desired until DD saw what all the other 7th graders were carrying.

  7. Shop early to assure the best selection (you can always return what you purchased but didn't actually need). Younger kids especially enjoy selecting their own supplies and this will insure they are actually used.

Happy Shopping!

Source: Posted on my blog: http://frugality-girl.blogspot.com/

By skibum1910 from Prospect, KY

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By 6 found this helpful
August 15, 2012

Every where you look, all you see is Back to School sales. In some places, kids are going back, but here in CA, it is the start of summer school. Either way, savings are all around us.

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By 2 found this helpful
August 10, 2010

My sister used to live in a town where the school bought the supplies and split the cost among the parents. They were able to save money, because they bought in bulk. Another advantage being that every child had the same items.

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By 4 found this helpful
September 16, 2010

Stock up now on school supplies. The supplies won't be this cheap until a full year later. You can use school supplies as really good stocking stuffers or you can give them out in gift bags at birthday parties!

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By 2 found this helpful
August 8, 2011

Here are several tips for saving money on school supplies.

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By 0 found this helpful
October 1, 2008

We buy a years worth of school supplies once a year. Every year the stores such as Walmart, Target others put the school supplies on sale. Such as a box of crayons for .22cents. Most families wait for the schools list to come out.

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August 2, 20070 found this helpful

I always wait until I have an exact list of needed items from the teachers themselves before I buy. In the upper grades, some teachers can be very specific about what they prefer; down to the color of the ink pen or size of the notebook.

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By 1 found this helpful
August 22, 2006

Recycling School Supplies Tip. I redecorate my son's discarded binders and barely used notebooks. Then, I use them for journals, collecting recipes, etc.

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By 3 found this helpful
July 22, 2011

This can be done in a community to help families provide new articles of clothing, shoes, backpacks, etc for children to have when school begins.

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By 3 found this helpful
March 25, 2011

We asked other families if they had some good school things from the year before, then gave them 1/4 their cost. This saves and helped the other family too.

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By 0 found this helpful
August 1, 2008

If your school age child has a summer time birthday, let your relatives purchase their needed school supplies such as lunch boxes, backpacks, notebooks as their gifts.

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By 0 found this helpful
August 24, 2006

Saving For School Expenses. Purchasing school supplies takes a huge bite out of our budget (and it's a free public education!) Each payday, I place $25 in an envelope to be used for school related expenses. . .

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By 0 found this helpful
August 1, 2007

When each of my grandchildren were born, I started a tub where I purchase school supplies for them every year. I wait until school starts and Walmart and the other stores discount everything and I stock up.

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March 21, 2007

When school is out, it is a great time to stock up on folders, spiral bound paper or ring binders, if you don't mind dumpster diving. The last day of school a lot of kids don't want the burden of things to take home and all kinds of resusables go into the trash.

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By 1 found this helpful
July 12, 2011

Instead of going out to buy new coloring utensils for the school year, grab that big box of crayons from under the bed. You can find a crayon sharpener just laying about and sharpen some of the main colors needed.

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By 0 found this helpful
July 23, 2008

Shop now for your Back to School items. They're greatly reduced at various stores. Stock up for the whole year. Also, keep in mind buying packages of pencils, erasers, etc., these items could be put in birthday goodie bags, Easter baskets, or used as Halloween treats, in place of sweet treats.

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July 30, 20040 found this helpful

If possible, wait to buy most things after school starts when school supplies go on sale.

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July 19, 20000 found this helpful

We asked our readers how they save money on their school clothes and supply shopping. Here are the answers.

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August 3, 2007

Another way to save on school/home office supplies is to look for online freebie. I have gotten sample highlighters, photo and print paper, pens, and post-it notes!

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August 2, 2007

Just before school starts, the stores put school supplies on sale at very cheap prices. The kids will usually need most of those sale items at some point. So I purchase the limited number. Sometimes even going back more than once.

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July 29, 20040 found this helpful

School supplies for my children this year were free! What I did was sign up for Office Depot's rebate program which gives you money back in the form of a Office Depot Gift card when you make purchases at their stores.

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Archives

ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.

September 16, 20100 found this helpful

Stock up now during back-to-school sales on school supplies. During the year you will need more glue, markers, paper, notebooks, etc. and they will never be cheaper than they are right now! Store them all in one place, like a crate so you and your kids will know where to look before buying anything more.

By Linda

Answers:

Stocking Up on School Supplies

Stocking up during this time of year is a great idea that saves money throughout. When school begins in the fall, prices on supplies are much cheaper. I purchase my office supplies and stock up on them as well. Not only does it save money, but it also saves time by going to the storage closet and getting what you need without leaving home to run to the nearest discount department store. (08/02/2004)

By Van

Stocking Up on School Supplies

I also do this! My daughter was famous for telling me the day after my Walmart trip she needed supplies so this helps to have it on hand! Also my son loves to draw and I hate all the loose leaf paper laying around so I buy spiral notebooks by the case at this time of the year when they are next to nothing! (08/20/2004)

By

Stocking Up on School Supplies

Stocking up in the fall is a great idea. We went to Cuba last February and took some of the school supplies along to give out as gifts. They really appreciated them. (10/13/2004)

By valleyrimgirl

Stocking Up on School Supplies

I wait to purchase school supplies until after school starts. Sometimes the teachers have specific items that they want the children to have such as folders or binders or loose paper or spiral notebook.
(08/28/2007)

By georgjeana

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June 23, 20100 found this helpful

I need tips on saving on school supplies required by the school. Each year the school list seems to get longer and longer, and with 4 kids I am having a hard time affording the supplies.

By Eearnold from Bel Air, MD

Answers:

Saving Money On School Supplies

This is rather disturbing, but as a "room mom" for several years, this is the basic process: about 1/3 of the kids in public elementary schools have parents that buy/provide the various crayons, markers, pencils and glue for their own kid.

The other 2/3 of the kids in the class either have nothing or just a few of the recommended supplies.

The teacher "shares" all the supplies so each child has a pencil or marker to do the project of the day. the crayons and markers go into a general storage shelf and the teacher doles out the items daily and replaces them at the end of the school day. Sad but true.

Get what you can. Focus on the inexpensive stuff like pencils, erasers and a small set of crayons. Check the store circulars for big discounts like 10 cent glue sticks. You can check them online.

Don't feel guilty if you can't afford to buy everything on the list. Most other families cannot afford it either. It's OK to send in 5 crayons at a time. If everyone is "sharing" it will not matter in the slightest.

If you saw what I have seen over the years, you would understand. In a class of 30 kids, maybe only 5 or 6 would have supplies.

The other posts are great, I just wanted to share what the "reality" is on how the supplies are used so you won't feel bad if you can't provide everything on the list. (08/26/2009)

By twilightgift

Saving Money On School Supplies

Check with your city. In Tacoma, WA I have seen them sponsor an event where children with families who can't afford the supplies can come and get them for free or minimal cost. I didn't pay too much attention at the time but my friend makes use of the program. I think it is sponsored by the program that also offers free lunches to kids during the summer. Doesn't hurt to check it out. (08/26/2009)

By Toolgirl

Saving Money On School Supplies

Buy off season! Get what you can now, the basics. Like pencils etc. and then Shop again in October when all the school stuff goes on sale again. Also remember to check out your local dollar tree or dollar store! (08/26/2009)

By Tannac

Saving Money On School Supplies

We are so lucky, that here in the UK we do not have to supply anything. My daughter takes a pencil case as do many other children, as she's now 9. But in the younger years they are told they are not allowed to take pencil cases in, (in our school anyway). Also here, we have many free fun days to take the children in the summer holidays. All these have many different stalls giving out freebies with the advertisements on. We went to one today all the children were given a free canvas shopping bag that they then put all the things in from various stalls. Between my two girls, they were given 10 pencils, 10 pens, a few note blocks, 2 bags, 4 star shaped marker pens with colors on each end, and many other items. This has all been divided up with all the other holiday freebies they have collected, and will now be posted to her cousin in Canada and our friend's children in New York. I know my friend and family look forward to these parcels. (08/26/2009)

By ruth langdon

Saving Money On School Supplies

For some of those more expensive items like the calculators needed in high school, you might try craig's list in your area. (08/26/2009)

By deebomb

Saving Money On School Supplies

Check with your local school counselor. Many schools have a program to supply students with free or low cost supplies. Also, check with your PTA or PTO. Many stock a supply closet for both supplies and clothes/shoes for students. Local thrift stores often have backpacks that are gently used (or sometimes, unused) for $1.00 or $2.00. Check local ads for big sales on supplies-sometimes you can get spiral bound notebooks at 10 for $1.00, packages of notebook paper 3 for $1.00. Ask other parents who have children older than yours, if they have any leftover required supplies for Mrs. So-and-So's class. Many of our friends pass along books from last year's reading lists with the understanding that you will pass that same book onto the following year's class. Use your parent networks. There are deals out there, just keep looking:) (08/26/2009)

By readingiggits

Saving Money On School Supplies

I saw a story on the news about school supplies last night. They shopped at several different stores for same items. Target was about half price over most expensive store for same items. So if you have a Target close by definitely try there. Also check with your local freecycle to see of anyone has a child that has leftover school supplies from year before they won't be using. My son graduated last year and had a bunch of notebooks, loose leaf paper, lead pencils, left over so I put them on my freecycle so another parent could save some money. Definitely if you can wait on some stuff try to do that and shop when things go on clearance. Check different places for some stuff like glue sticks and markers, they are also used in stuff like scrap booking, I have found 10 glue sticks for a dollar in a scrap booking store. Hope all goes well for you and yours. (08/28/2009)

By micksgirl

Saving Money On School Supplies

We never got ahead of that game. If we bought when the pre-school sales were, the items we bought weren't on the list. Or it wasn't the exact brand or colors of the notebbooks. Buying a year ahead was a guessing game also. Or the items were so picked over by the time school started and we got the list only the most awful colors were left. Finally gave up and homeschooled. (08/28/2009)

By Frazzled Leslie

Saving Money On School Supplies

If the school "requires" them, the school should supply them. I'm a retired SPED teacher and our elementary school had a school wide study skills program. The PTO bought and distributed standardized binders, homework schedule sheets, subject dividers and instructions for the parents. Teachers also requests "donations" from those that were able for kleenex, pencils, plastic bags. paper towels etc. I know this won't help this fall but something the PTO/PTA should be made aware of. (08/29/2009)

By merlene

Saving Money On School Supplies

When my four were in school, I always went to Wal-mart with my list. They always had the best "back-to-school" sales! We could get the specific folders my kids needed for as little as five cents, and that was only the beginning! Hurray for Wal-mart! The salvation of the working mom. (grin!) (08/29/2009)

By JustPlainJo

Saving Money On School Supplies

I found very good deals on supplies at Wal-Mart in mid Aug. I think Crayola 24 crayons were .20 a box and Elmer's School Glue was around .17 or .20, glue sticks were very cheap too. Crayola washable markers were $1. I didn't spend that much for two children and anything that was still good from last year got sent. My son is using a LL Bean backpack now for the the 3rd year as it's still plenty good. My daughter was harder on hers so she got a new one for 9 bucks at Wal-Mart.

My daughter's supplies do not get shared with the class. I saw her put them in her desk and that's where they stay unless she's using them. She brings it all back on last day too. Now in my son's Spec Ed class I send basic supplies that the teacher keeps and uses throughout the year for all students which is certainly fine with me.

Teachers are always spending their own money for things and giving the kids special treats and gifts on holidays and their birthdays. I certainly don't mind buying some things to help out. I also try to send packaged goodies or munchies for their snack time. I have noticed and even heard that some parents don't bother to send anything nor help when asked and wondered if they truly can't afford it or are just being "cheap" figuring someone else will take care of it. (08/30/2009)

By Debbie52

Saving Money On School Supplies

I am way past needing to buy school supplies, however, I do help with supplies for my grandkids. I also find that WalMart has real good buys, along with Target, and Walgreens in SD also has real good buys. What I don't like here in Sioux Falls is that the schools here put lists of required supplies in the stores, and they specify the brand name items. Which sometimes a person finds a good buy and sometimes you don't.

The reason this annoys me is a few years ago when I was buying some stuff for my grandkids the cashier at WalMart told me that the teachers come in and stock up on the cheapest brand of items to have on hand in case a child's crayons or something gets lost. If the cheaper items are good enough for the teachers to supply, why require the kids to bring the more expensive items? In Sioux Falls "The Banquet"(a place where needy people can go for free meals) sponsors a project SOS, which on the last Saturday before school starts needy people can go and get a backpack full of some of the required supplies for each kid that is in school.

The kids have to be with the parent or guardian. They don't always get all of the supplies required, but they do get the backpack, and some of the supplies. The Banquet takes donations for several months to do this and sometime in the summer they put a box inside the doorway of each store that handles that type of things, for people to drop supplies in. This year, starting in the middle of July our apartment management company started collecting things to donate for the project. I donated six folders, a couple pkgs. of 10 pencils, a couple pkgs. of 10 ball point pens and a pkg of loose leaf binder paper, and all together it didn't cost more than $1.50. The paper was the most expensive item at 75 cents for the pkg. (08/30/2009)

By redhatterb

Saving Money On School Supplies

As a teacher and a mom of 3, I know what an expense things can be, but be aware that most of the things on the list have a purpose. If you have an elementary list specifying a particular color of notebook, it may be an organizational thing where all the kids will use their blue notebook for science and the pink one for social studies and so on. If a particular brand of crayon or marker or glue is specified, it may be that the teacher has found that bargain brands have peculiar colors, won't do the job she wants done, don't last very well or so on.

However, that being said, I find that lots of people buy all new stuff every year mainly because they don't teach their children not to be wasteful. There is no need to buy new crayons every year if the old ones are still good. Pencils can be the ones that you get free from businesses; so can pens. Kids don't need stuff with cartoon characters on them. You can get backpacks at yard sales; and one should do for years. Put your child's name on everything -- and encourage them to look after their stuff. I have seen kids destroy their supplies before we even got to use them at school-- covering stuff all over with white out, for example. Putting a big puddle of glue on some other kids desk as a "prank", and then not having any for the art class. Don't buy stuff that is too cheap - like a cheap geometry set that falls apart, nor things that are too expensive, and have features that are totally unnecessary.

Use binders over again. I have seen kids throw out perfectly good binders. Tear out used pages and use partial notebooks in upper years.

I would find out if your school has the kids "share" supplies - which I feel is somewhat unethical when all don't bring them. It is one thing for each kid to contribute a box of kleenex for the class to use, and they "share" that, and quite another for a few parents to supply the whole class with crayons and pencils.

If you find that you are not able to afford all the things at once, have a talk with some of the kids teachers and find out if all things are needed right away. I had kids bring 10 pencils, for example, but of course they only used one at a time. The rest were to last the rest of the year. Perhaps some of the things could be purchased later in the year. That being said, the sales are likely the best right now. (09/02/2009)

By louel53

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August 25, 20090 found this helpful

School supplies can be a big expense at this time of year. Hear are some tips from the ThriftyFun community. What are your ideas for saving money on school supplies?

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July 24, 20060 found this helpful
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