By: South Carolina State Treasurer Curtis Loftis, Administrator of Future Scholar College Savings Plan

August 15, 2018

It’s that time of year! The season of searching for No. 2 pencils, brightly colored binders, and that oh-so-special book bag is here. It’s an exciting time, full of anticipation for school-age children and their parents.

Back-to-School-graphicBut, as the first day of school approaches, families often find that shopping for crucial school supplies comes with a heavy price tag. Parents can end up unloading hundreds of dollars on back-to-school gear.

Of course, you want to supply your child with the right materials, but you also want to avoid over-spending.  So how can you make the most of your hard-earned dollars? It’s simple: Plan to shop smart.

  1. Follow the list: Teachers regularly provide a list of required materials. Don’t stray from what is suggested, as extra items often go unused. Your child may plead for extra colored pencils that will end up untouched the entire year. Prepare your child in advance for sticking to the list.
  2. Double-check the closet: It’s possible that some of the supplies you need are items you already have from the previous school year, and they are likely still in good condition. Check closets and drawers for binders, folders, and pencils that you can use this year. Every dollar saved counts!
  3. Avoid big brands: Your child may want the trendiest product from the most prestigious brand, but that doesn’t always translate to best quality. Well-known brands traditionally have higher price tags, but the items are virtually the same as those sold by lesser known brands.
  4. Shop with cash: Estimate how much you’ll need to buy the items on your back-to-school list.  Take that amount of cash to the store, and try to buy all materials with cash only. That way, you won’t be tempted to overspend. Your child can help keep track of your purchases as you shop.
  5. Coupons, coupons, coupons: The Sunday paper is a great place to find discount coupons on back-to-school supplies. Your child may want to join in the fun. You can also check websites like RetailMeNot, Groupon, and KrazyCouponLady to find deals and discounts.
  6. Put that extra money towards your 529 college savings plan: Open or add to a 529 college savings account for your child. For any questions you may have about 529 plans, refer to the CSPN FAQ page. To start investing in your child’s future today, check out the CSPN ‘Getting Started‘ page.

With these tips in mind, your child will get all the important school supplies he or she needs for a successful year, and you won’t break the bank. What’s more, when you use your savings to open or add to a 529 college savings account, your child won’t just have a successful year—he or she will be on the path to a successful future.


About the author

Curtis Loftis is the State Treasurer of South Carolina. He also serves as the administrator of South Carolina’s Future Scholar 529 college savings program. Visit or for more information on ways to save through a 529 plan.