It is not too late to purchase school supplies for next year. In fact, it is way too early for shopping; but early enough to start making a shopping list. We need to separate the here and now from future purchases, but the same principles apply: Shop with a list, buy in bulk and project future needs to avoid paying full price throughout the year.
Office Depot and Office Max - Their clearances are hard to beat throughout the year. While many retailers only stock popular school supplies for a specific period of time – typically August through early September – office supply stores stock most needed items throughout the year.
Specific items such as college-ruled notebooks are typically hard to find and required by some teachers in middle and high school as well as college. The end of August and all through September, pens, pencils, rulers, glue, stapler sets and kid-safe scissors can go as low as 5 cents on their clearance bins. Stock up at that time for next year and keep all the supplies in a clearly labeled "Back to School" box.
Middle and high school students in some districts are requested to not bring backpacks to school and to bring instead 3-inch zippered binders. The logic here is that everything they need is in the binder and no one will spill the contents in the hallways. However, all good intentions are not always supported by reality, and the reality of this situation is that 3-inch zipper binders disappear faster than a magician's assistant in a Vegas show.
Stock up at clearance time for the inevitable broken zipper and beaten-beyond-recognition replacement for this year and next year. These binders cost $10 and up when demand is high, but can be picked up for $3.00 after the school rush is over. Office supply stores are the most reliable places to find these after the school shopping frenzy is over.
WalMart and Target - These mass-merchandisers will reduce and match each other's prices as the shopping frenzy dies down. Know where they keep the clearance racks and head there to purchase boxes of notebooks for as little as 3 to 10 cents a piece. Make your own boxes by mixing every color available and calculate how many each child in the household will need throughout this year and next.
Glue bottles are typically inexpensive, around 25 cents a piece in the month of August. Purchase only what is required by teachers, and in September stock up for next year and to make donations to the classroom through the year. The clearance can go as low as 6 cents and the glue won't dry out if kept out of light, heat and unopened. The same cannot be said for glue sticks, so only get enough to hand over to your children as they need to replace them throughout the year.