Trisha Good, Executive Director, Ohio Tuition Trust Authority

August 8, 2023

Does your child’s upcoming school supply list seem to go on and on? According to a 2023 Deloitte report, most families expect to spend nearly $600 on school supplies this year. Before you head out to the stores or order online, check these savings strategies to reduce how much your family may have to pay to prepare for the new school year.

Save with what you already have

Being a smart shopper, most likely you’ve bought standard school supply items throughout the year when you found them at a good price, or at the end of last year’s back-to-school season when the supplies were on clearance. So check around the house to see if you already have some of the required school items before you start to tackle this year’s supply list. Also, check your children’s backpacks to see what supplies they brought home before the start of summer. By using last year’s items that are still in good shape, and your school supply stock, you can cross off these materials off the list.

Save with other families

An adage says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Many of your friends are in the same boat, spending a lot of money to prepare for their children’s new school year. Join forces with them to see if you can bring down everyone’s school supply costs. If someone finds a good deal on pencils, have them pick up extra for the group, and someone else can search for the best price on binders. Divide and conquer on the supply lists and share the bounty with others. With multiple people searching for the best prices, the final cost should be lower for everyone. Also, check if your local online frugal friends, buy/sell/trade or free groups on social media have school supply items to share.  If you have any extra, make sure to place them on these groups as well.

Save by sticking to the list

There are always supplies that catch your or your children’s eyes when shopping. Make a budget before going and stick to the teachers’ requested supplies list. Explain to your children that you are sticking to the budget so if they find another item that they want, then they are welcome to spend their own money on it. In addition, if you’re going to a store to shop, spend cash only. It makes it easier to stick to the list when you know that you have a set amount of funds on you.

Save with state sales tax holiday

Does your home state have a sales tax holiday weekend? If so, then take advantage of those tax savings and tie it in with back-to-school sales as well. You can then deposit those extra savings into your child’s 529 plan to continue supporting their education after high school.

The sales tax holiday is a great “money moment” to teach your children about delayed gratification. If you give your children a certain amount of dollars to buy their own school supplies, including clothes, then this can be a lesson on how to stretch their dollars. Look for the current prices of items for the upcoming school year. Next, figure out the state sales tax for these items. Then you can look to see if the stores will discount these items’ prices during the sales tax holiday. Therefore, if your child can wait for the sales tax holiday, then they can potentially save money two different ways—with lower prices and no sales tax. Together, you can figure out much those savings would be so your child can see the real monetary benefit of waiting to buy the items. You can also talk about saving the extra funds in their 529 higher education savings account. You can add a little extra encouragement to save by matching the funds they add to their future education.

Save with Upromise

Many 529 programs have partnered with Upromise, a free rewards program that offers its members cash back as you shop online, dine out, buy groceries, and book flights and hotels. If you choose to shop for your children’s school supplies with Upromise, make sure you visit stores that offer financial incentives to shop there. Once you accrued the cash rewards, you can transfer those funds to your 529 account that has been previously connected to your Upromise account.

It’s never too late to save

If you haven’t started to save for college costs, visit CSPN’s website to learn more about 529 plans. Be sure to check out your home state’s 529 program first—as a resident, you may receive additional state income tax deductions or credit. Every dollar saved in a 529 account is a dollar that isn’t borrowed. This makes a 529 college savings plan an excellent alternative to student loan debt.

If you have been saving in a 529 plan, take these additional steps, add those savings to your 529 account, and watch how it grows! Even small 529 plan deposits can grow through the power of compound interest, tax-free earning, and tax-free withdrawals for qualified higher education expenses.

About the author:

Trisha Good is the executive director of Ohio Tuition Trust Authority. For more than 34 years, Ohio Tuition Trust Authority has sponsored and administered Ohio’s 529 College Savings Program, CollegeAdvantage. Ohio’s 529 Plan oversees more than 680,000 accounts and over $15 billion in assets as of March 31, 2023. Visit or call 1-800-AFFORD-IT (233-6734) for more information.