Child smiles while carrying their back-to-school gear.

Back-to-School Shopping Tips for 2023

July 25th, 2023

You may not be halfway through your planned summer activities yet, but it’s time to start thinking about back-to-school sales. With most schools starting back up in mid-August, most back-to-school sales start after the Fourth of July.

We know back-to-school costs add up quickly, especially if you have more than one child or someone needs a new big-ticket item like a laptop or a pair of glasses. We’ve pulled together eight back-to-school shopping tips to help you save. Combine them with your AAA discount to save even more this year.

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9 Back-to-School Shopping Tips

Anyone with kids knows back-to-school season is a pricey one. Between picking up clothes that fit after a summer growth spurt and ensuring they have the basics in their backpack, it can be overwhelming for your budget, especially if you have multiple kids. Here are a few hacks to shop for back-to-school on a budget.


Graphic summarizing back-to-school shopping tips

1. Shop Back-to-School Sales

Most retailers offer back-to-school sales, which usually start after the Fourth of July holiday through late August. In fact, back-to-school shopping is just as big as holiday shopping, and retailers offer major discounts to lure in shoppers. Compare sales to find the best deals for your needs, or get all your shopping done in one place at stores like Walmart or Target.

2. Shop on a Tax-Free Weekend

Several states offer tax-free weekends, also called sales tax holidays, where they waive sales tax on certain purchases. How much you can save varies based on your state’s tax rate. In Ohio, for example, you can expect to save at least $7 per $100 you spend on school supplies and clothing. Since the average family spends $864 on back-to-school purchases, an Ohioan can expect to save at least $56 on a tax-free weekend.

Check the dates for your state’s tax-free weekend and plan to shop accordingly. Just be prepared for large crowds since a lot of people will participate. If you can, opt for curbside pickup on your orders at stores like Walmart or Target.

3. Take Advantage of Memberships

Use your store loyalty and other memberships strategically.

  • For school supplies you may need a lot of, like paper or pencils, buy in bulk at a warehouse store like Sam’s or Costco.
  • Take advantage of members-only sales like Amazon Prime Day to get the best deals on everything you need.
  • Use your AAA discount at retailers from Dell to Reebok Outlet Stores to LensCrafters. (See additional discount partners below for a complete list.)

4. Spread Out Your Spending

No one says you can’t shop for back-to-school until right before school starts. If your budget is tight, spread out your shopping over the entire summer. You may not have access to as many sales, but your monthly budget may be more manageable.

5. Check Out the Dollar Store

Dollar stores are a great option for school supplies like paper and writing utensils. You might be surprised how often they have name-brand supplies in stock, so you aren’t sacrificing quality for savings.

6. Start Early for the Best Selection

Stores often start putting out their back-to-school items in late June, but the sales don’t start until after July Fourth. Shop early (even if it interferes with your staycation plans) for the best selection. Otherwise, you may have to deal with your kids complaining about how they didn’t get the lunchbox with their favorite cartoon character. 

7. Reuse What You Can

At the end of the previous school year, go through everything your kids bring home from school. Chances are, they still have usable pencils in their pencil pouch and notebooks that have more than half the pages still in them. Take note of what they still have so you don’t have to buy it for back-to-school.

8. Use Discounted Gift Cards

Sometimes stores will sell discounted gift cards. For example, they may sell a pack of gift cards valued at $100 for $90 if you use their credit card. So if you buy $864 worth of gift cards, you’ll save $80. 

9. Use a Cash Back Credit Card

Use a cash back credit card for all your back-to-school purchases. If you earn 1 percent in cash back on all purchases and you spend the average of $864 dollars, you’ll save $8.64. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but if you combine using your cash back credit card with other strategies on this list, like purchasing discounted gift cards, your savings can add up quickly.

If you don’t have a cash back credit card, use one with rewards. Whether they offer airline rewards, hotel rewards or something else, the money you spend on back-to-school sales will earn you points toward something. 


Save on Back-to-School With AAA

Take advantage of memberships to get discounts on back-to-school must-haves. The Discounts & Rewards® program has plenty of saving opportunities to ensure your kid is ready to learn on day one.

Save on Tech

Up-to-date tech is essential for effective learning these days. Dell is offering AAA members an additional 10 percent off Dell-branded PCs, electronics, and accessories. HP is offering up to 35 percent off select HP products. You can also explore a variety of tech and accessories from Lenovo.

The school year gets hectic, and families need to keep in touch. Samsung is offering up to 30 percent off sitewide to AAA members, with additional savings for mobile devices. Switch the entire family to T-Mobile and get $100, which can go a long way in stocking up on school supplies.

Save on Moving to College

If your kids are old enough that back to school means moving away to school, you might have more stuff to schlep than the family car can carry. Your AAA membership can help:

  • Making the move on your own but need boxes and other moving supplies? The UPS Store has you covered with a AAA discount of up to 15 percent off when you show your AAA membership card. Find your nearest UPS Store.
  • Need a place to stay while helping your college student move to a new city or state? Stay with one of AAA’s preferred hotel partners and save on your stay with access to exclusive hot deals for AAA members.

Save on Kids’ Glasses

Whether your student is getting glasses for the first time, needs a new prescription or just wants more stylish frames to start the next grade, LensCrafters is a one-stop solution. It also offers a number of AAA discounts, including 30 percent off eye exams. Find your nearest LensCrafters.

Save on Getting the Car Carpool Ready

The family car needs to be ready to navigate school drop-off lanes and shuttle everyone from soccer practice to theater rehearsal. Get your car in back-to-school mode with your AAA membership.

Save on Back-To-School Meals

Meals get tough when school’s in session and everyone is on a different schedule. Make mealtime easy with your AAA membership.

Save on Personalized First Day Merchandise

Is it really the first day of school if there’s no photographic evidence? Save 20 percent on personalized back-to-school props at Personalization Mall with your AAA membership. 

You can also order personalized frames for those photos or get them printed on blankets or T-shirts. Order notebooks, backpacks and more to send your kid back to school with personalized supplies no one else in the class will have.

Save on Teacher Gifts

The first day back to school isn’t just hard on you and your kids — it’s a long day for your kid’s teacher, too! Use your AAA membership to save on the following back-to-school teacher gifts:

Sign Up for a AAA Membership Today for Back-To-School Savings

Getting your kids ready to go back to school doesn’t have to break the bank. Sign up for a AAA membership to start saving today on back-to-school sales.

Your AAA membership gets you more than just discounts on back-to-school essentials. Learn more about:

Discounts for AAA members