With summer almost over parents and students face the start of the new school year; well, kind of. The COVID-19 epidemic is driving school districts to look for alternatives to in-person learning, with some moving forward with online classes.

This new format is sure to shake up your back-to-school shopping list, but it doesn’t have to mean it will cost you more money. Save some cash with our list of money-saving tips for the unique school year ahead.


As any high school freshman will tell you, the right outfit on the first day of school will set the tone for the rest of the year. Retailers know this, and in fact, clothes made up a majority of the $80.7 billion spent on school supplies in 2019.

Online classes present an opportunity to save some money on clothes and apparel in 2020. With less pressure on students to have the latest gear, parents can save money by recycling lightly used clothing from the previous year or from older siblings. If you must buy new, consider buying generic brands instead of household names (no one will see your Nikes on a webcam anyway).

Lastly, studying from home means that clothing will experience less wear and tear, giving you the opportunity to save on replacement costs.

Backpacks & Accessories

Backpacks, binders and similar accessories also cost parents a lot of money each new school year. Whether it’s due to wear and tear or simply the desire for something new, parents often purchase new accessories for their student annually.

With many students learning from home this year, these items may be an unnecessary expense. An alternative to acquiring more supplies is to set up a learning space for your child that includes storage for all of their school items. Whether this is a large desk, a cubby, or an old file cabinet, the important thing here is organization..

If you do prefer something portable, simply reuse last year’s supplies.


Online textbooks are always a great option if you’re looking to save money as they can be up to 60 percent cheaper than their print counterparts. Those are incredible savings, particularly for pricey high school and college textbooks.

However, they’re not always feasible as there are sometimes restrictions put on students using laptops in the classroom. This shouldn’t present a problem with online learning, which will help you and your student save big bucks this year.


Few things are as frustrating to parents as spending money on school supplies that are rarely used. Enter the graphing calculator. Topping $100, these are often required items on high school and college syllabuses. The problem is, unless you’re studying mathematics they’re rarely necessary.

The good news is that there are free graphing calculators online, such as the GeoGebra graphic calculator. In the past this may have presented a problem similar to using online textbooks, but with at-home learning this isn’t the case.

That’s $100 back in your pocket, and you don’t need a calculator to see how that adds up to big savings.

School Trips and Events

I loved fieldtrips as a student so I’m not particularly happy about this one, but with COVID-19 restricting large gatherings, fieldtrips are probably going to become rare for the foreseeable future. Having said that, these trips are an expense that parents face each year, and not having them could potentially save a lot of money.

Still, fieldtrips are great learning opportunities that parents can replace with learning games, apps, virtual museum “tours” and at-home activities, often at no cost.

Costs to Consider

While there are numerous ways that virtual learning will save parents money this year, learning from home comes with its own unique expenses.

For example, if a student did not previously have access to a desktop or laptop computer, parents will have to spend money purchasing one. Given that the average cost of a new computer is around $600, that’s a big chunk out of the budget. To alleviate the financial burden, consider purchasing a Chromebook which can be bought for less than $200 and have more than enough power to handle simple tasks associated with schoolwork.

Another expense to embrace is the cost of setting up a learning space in your home. Having a dedicated space for your student is as important as having a home office. Of course, this means purchasing a desk, a chair, desk lamp, and other accessories that may not have been necessary with in-person learning.

The good news is that many of these items can be purchased online at a discounted price, although you’ll want to adhere to your local health department’s social distancing and health guidelines before any in-person transaction. If you prefer to do all of your shopping online, look into retail sites, such as Overstock and Ebay, that sell overstocked and clearance items as this is a great way to save additional money.

Unique Learning, Unique Opportunities

The upcoming school year will be a unique one without a doubt, but unique challenges present unique opportunities.  Hopefully this list will help you to save money on the items your student will need to succeed this year.

Are you wondering what to do with all the money you saved on school supplies this year? Consider saving it for future school expenses by opening a FirstBank Bloom Package! Visit our Bloom Package site to learn more.

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