Are you a student or parent in need of school supplies?
You’re not alone. The National Retail Federation estimates that families will spend an average of $849 on back-to-school items and College students and their families spend an average of $1,200.
If you’re looking to save money on back-to-school shopping, here are 12 ways to get free school supplies.
12 Ways To Get Free School Supplies
1. Don’t Be Afraid to Swap Supplies
Finding free school supplies can be challenging, especially if you don’t know where to look. Fortunately, there are a few ways to get your hands on the necessary supplies without spending much money. One option is to swap supplies with other students who may have extras. This can be a great way to get what you need without spending any money.
2. Turn To Your Child’s Teacher for Free School Supplies
As any parent knows, school supplies can be a significant expense. But there are a few ways to get free school supplies. One is to turn to your child’s teacher. Many teachers are happy to supply students with the basic materials they need for class.
Suppose your child’s teacher does not have any extra school supplies on hand. In that case, they may still be able to help you connect with other parents, charitable organizations, or community members who might be able to donate items. You can also check with your child’s school to see if they have any financial assistance or school giveaways to help families in need.
3. Your Child’s School or School District
Most schools and school districts have many programs to help students from low-income families get the free school supplies they need for the school year. Your child may qualify to receive items such as a free backpack, free clothes, new shoes, and even free haircuts. Some also provide discounted school supplies, and school supply drives are also popping up around this time of year. Contact your child’s school or district office to find out what available programs are and how to apply for assistance.
4. Go to the Salvation Army
The Salvation Army is a wonderful charitable organization providing many services to those in need. Often, these stores will have school supplies donated by people across the country who no longer need them. This is a great way to get free school supplies because you can usually find everything you need in one place. Plus, you’re helping the environment by recycling materials that would otherwise go to waste.
Salvation Army service centers provide supplies like backpacks, notebooks, pens, hygiene items, and even free uniforms to students in high-need schools all across the country.
To find a local Salvation Army near you, go to their website (you can also check upcoming events or programs) and enter your zip code. Once you find a location, call them and ask if they have any school supplies available.
5. United Way
Many local United Way organizations partner with schools and nonprofit groups to provide free or low-cost school supplies for qualifying families. The United Way School Supply Drive is an annual event organized to promote and encourage the community to donate and collect school supplies so that all children may return to class equipped with the materials required for academic success.
To find a United Way near you, go to their website and enter your zip code. Once you find a location, call them and ask about their school supply drive.
6. Boys & Girls Clubs of America
The Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) is a federally chartered, national organization that holds a Congressional Charter under Title 36 of the United States Code. They offer a variety of programs and services that focus on academic performance, character and leadership development, and healthy lifestyles.
One of the many ways they help support youth is by providing after-school and summer programs for kids, which includes free school supplies. To help assure kids and teenagers return to school with the supplies they need for success, many local and nationwide retailers partner with Boys & Girls Clubs of America, encouraging donations of school supplies and their employees to volunteer and support the cause.
Boys & Girls Clubs of America have multiple local chapters all across the country. To find a Boys & Girls Club near you, go to their website and enter your zip code. Once you’ve identified a site, contact them and inquire about their current initiatives and services.
7. Operation Homefront’s Back to School Brigade
The Back-to-School Brigade is an annual nationwide school supply collection and distribution effort conducted by Operation Homefront. Its focus is to help military children whose parents are deployed, ill, or injured, start the school year off right.
Operation Homefront is a national nonprofit that provides financial and other assistance to the families of service members and wounded warriors. The organization donated more than 465,000 backpacks to military children, saving the military family $50 million in educational costs since its inception in 2002.
To get help from Operation Homefront, you must fill out an application on their website. Feel free to contact them if you have questions about the application process.
8. Kids in Need Foundation
The Kids In Need Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring that every child in the United States has equal access to high-quality education and the tools necessary to succeed in the classroom.
They provide free school supplies to needy children through their Supply A Student program. This works because local businesses, community organizations, and individuals will sponsor a child or classroom by providing them with a fully stocked backpack of school supplies. In short, they will supply directly to teachers who deliver the supplies to needy students.
Contact your local school district and inquire about how they can participate in the program.
9. Local Churches and Community Centers
Churches and community centers are often overlooked as a source for free school supplies, but they can be a great resource! Many of these organizations hold drives or supply donation bins where people can drop off new and used supplies.
Some churches and community centers will also have programs where they will give away backpacks filled with school supplies. If you’re unsure where to start, try searching online or calling your local church or community center.
10. DIY School Supplies Drive
One of the best ways to get free school supplies is to hold a DIY drive. This is where you collect items that can be used to make school supplies, such as paper, pencils, crayons, etc. You can also ask for donations of old textbooks and notebooks.
To get started, contact your local schools and see if they are interested in participating in a back-to-school event. You can also post about your drive on social media or online websites. Be sure to include a list of what you’re looking for so people know what to donate.
11. Local News Affiliates
Local news affiliates often sponsor school supply giveaways during the back-to-school season. They frequently partner with businesses in the community to provide free supplies to students in need.
To find out if any affiliate in your area is running a back to school events, tune in to your local news station or check their website.
Freecycle is an online platform where people can give away unwanted items. You can search for school supplies that you need or even post a request for specific items. Freecycle is a great way to get gently used supplies that are still in good condition.
Bonus Tip: Find Free School Supplies on Craigslist
Getting free school supplies can be as easy as checking your local Craigslist website. Many people use Craigslist to post ads for items they are giving away for free. All you have to do is search for “free school supplies” in the search bar and see what comes up. You may be surprised at what people are giving away for free!
So, there you have it! Twelve ways to get free school supplies for your child. If you’re creative and resourceful, you can probably find even more ways to get your kids’ supplies without breaking the bank. And remember, start early, so you have plenty of time to gather everything on your list. With a little effort, you can ensure that your children are well-supplied for another school year – without spending a fortune in the process.
Tawnya is a 34-year-old Special Education teacher in the sixth year of her career. Along with her partner, Sebastian, she runs the blog Money Saved is Money Earned. Tawnya has worked extremely hard to reach her goals and remain debt-free.
She holds an Honors BS in Psychology from Oregon State University and an MS in Special Education from Portland State University and has had a pretty successful writing career, first as a writing tutor at the Oregon State University Writing Center, and in recent years, as a freelance writer.
Tawnya and Sebastian have a wealth of knowledge and information about personal finance, retirement, student loans, credit cards, and many other financial topics. It is this wealth of tips and tricks that they wish to pass on to others.