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When it comes to your FAFSA® aid, you might not be able to rely on it to help you with back to school supply shopping.

After all, federal financial aid doesn’t necessarily help you cover things like notebooks, paper, laptops, or other essentials. So, even if you anticipate getting money after filling out the FAFSA®, build your back to school expenses into what you’ll have to pay out of pocket.

Rather than let school supplies break the bank, here are a few quick tips to shopping for your supplies on a budget.

The Dollar Store

That’s right, the Dollar Store is one of the surefire ways to get school supplies super cheap. They stock everything from notebooks and pens to calculators and markers. 

You can probably walk into the Dollar Store, buy everything you need, and not spend a dime over $20. While these might not be the fanciest school supplies ever, they will most definitely get the job done. 

Facebook Marketplace

Facebook Marketplace is a great place to find second-hand supplies at a steep discount. This takes a little creativity, meaning that it might actually be best to think ahead and look through the marketplace at the end of the school year.

Larger ticket items like textbooks, furniture, and spendy calculators or laptops pop-up near the end of each semester when students don’t need them anymore. Additionally, the marketplace makes it easy to find local listings and it also means you don’t have to pay for shipping, delivery, or in some cases even gas.

If you’re fine with second-hand items and are looking to save a little cash this year, Facebook will be your new best friend. 

Shop With Cashback Apps

If you’re doing your shopping online, you’re going to want to use a cashback app like Rakuten or Ibotta. These apps offer cashback for shopping online and, depending on the store, you can get up to 20% cashback (and sometimes more) on your entire purchase.

While these aren’t discount codes you can apply right away, if you use them for all of your online back to school shopping, you can rack up a pretty penny. They Paypal your cashback every quarter, which means money back in your pocket when you might need it again. 

Coupon Apps

Coupons are a huge money saver. You might already be the type that searches the internet for a promo or discount code, and that’s great! If you’re not, why not install an app that does it for you?

The browser extension, Honey, will take a look at your purchase and try to find you the best deal online. If there’s a discount code, it will find it for you and apply it to your purchase automatically.

Using an application like this can help you save money you didn’t even know was out there. 

Hold Off On Shopping

Once the bulk of the school year has started, tons of stores put their back to school items on sale. You also might have a little extra FAFSA® aid in your pocket if you wait until later in the semester.

This is especially helpful for larget ticket items like furniture, tech, and clothing. If you wait just a little while, you could save a significant amount of money compared to what you’ll spend in the height of back to school season. 

Swap With Friends

If you have friends that took a course last semester or are looking to upgrade their own school supply haul, consider swapping materials. Rather than both of you spending money, you can swap what you have too much of for what you really need. 

Not only does this save you money, but it has the potential to save your entire circle of friends a little cash. Come together and see what you can all share and swap. You might find that you end up with more supplies than you anticipated — and you didn’t have to spend a dime!

College is expensive enough, don’t let back to school shopping drive you even more in debt. These simple tips are easy and effective ways to save money and make sure you have what you need for the school year.

FAFSA® opens October 1st. Frank can help you file 40 minutes faster for FREE. Click here.

We are not affiliated with the U.S. Department of Education. Federal Student Aid (FSA), an office of the U.S. Department of Education, makes the Free
Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form and assistance available to the public for free at fafsa.gov.