How to Get Free (or Discounted) School Supplies

Resources that are available to help families

how to get free school supplies
Surprised at how many school supplies your preschooler needs? There are resources available for free school supplies for those who need it. Image Source

For parents who are new to the back-to-school season, it can be jarring to find out how much school supplies preschoolers need, and how much they cost.  While preschoolers usually only need the basics (think: backpack, lunchbox, crayons, scissors, pencils, a notebook or two, glue sticks, and maybe a folder), the prices on all of these things can add up very quickly. And if you have more than one child, the cost of school supplies can quickly take a big bite of your household budget.


Luckily, if you are in need, there are many organizations and community groups who give out free school supplies—all you need to do is ask. Here are some ideas on who to look to:

  1. School. Believe it or not, the very place that is asking you to provide school supplies may have some of their own to provide. Reach out to the teacher or school administrator and see if they are able to help. Additionally, your child's school district may have supplies set aside for this very purpose. 
  2. Church or temple. Many local churches and temples host school supply drives for their congregations to provide basics for the children of their parish. Check with the leaders or secretary at your church, temple or religious organization to find out how these supplies can be made available to you.
  3. Organizations and non-profit groups. Free school supplies often come from groups such as the Salvation Army, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and scouts. Call local groups near you and find out what types of events they are offering this year and how you can participate. 
  1. Chamber of Commerce. Many central organizations or governments in cities and towns often have school supply drives and then hand them out to kids who are starting school. You'll need to know who to call, whether it is the town hall or an organization who is holding the drive. Even if your city or town is not sponsoring an event like this, it is likely they will know of groups who are, so it is definitely worth reaching out. 
  1. Stores. If you are a good bargain shopper (or even if you aren't) keep an eye on circulars and sales. Many stores offer school supplies at deep discounts or also have rebates, making what you need either free or costing just pennies. Even if you don't have your current school supply list (we usually don't get ours until about two weeks before school starts), it might make sense to pick up things are being sold cheaply, such as $.25 crayons or $.10 marble composition notebooks (common sales during back-to-school time). Remember too, you don't have to spend all of your back-to-school budget in one place. If store X offers folders for $.15 each, and store Y has colored pencils for $1 per box, you'll want to hit both places. You'll have to do some homework and legwork, but it can be worth it. 

They key, wherever you get your supplies from, is not to be afraid to ask. The resources are there if you know where to look. Additionally, don't forget to look around your own house. Things such as backpacks and lunch boxes that were used previously may still be in good condition for another year.

Also, find out if supplies need to be new. For example, if you have a bin full of crayons or markers in your house, maybe you could send those in lieu of a box of new crayons or markers. 

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