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7 Ways to Get Free School Supplies

Kayla Mossien
July 16, 2014

Want to save money on school supplies? Here are free options you can use.

According to the National Retail Federation, the average family spends more than $600 on children's clothing, electronics and back-to-school supplies each year. And with school budgets dropping, the list of school supply families have to purchase keeps getting longer and longer.

Here are ways you can save money by getting free alternatives to expensive school supplies.

"I try to remind parents that they are investing in their child's future by getting help, investing in the future of their child and the community as a whole," says Diane Iverson, open door director of special projects at The Coalition for Compassion and Justice, a nonprofit whose Fresh Start program provides school supplies to low-income families.

  1. Inquire If Your Child's School Teacher Shops at a Resource Center
    Organizations across the country provide free supplies to teachers from qualifying schools. "Teachers from designated school districts located in the immediate areas of these centers who have at least 70 percent of their students enrolled in the federal free lunch program can qualify to shop," says David Smith, executive director of the Kids in Need Foundation, which helps support the nation's teachers and students.

    Smith explains that these types of programs have excellent relationships with major retailers and manufacturers of school supplies across the country.

  2. Organize a School Supplies Drive
    Chances are you're not the only parent wincing at the thought of buying new school supplies. Team up with other parents or school/after-school organizations and host a drive at a local store in the community. Ask families to bring new/gently-used supplies. Set up a policy for bring-one-supply, take-one-supply.

  3. Try an Online Group
    Join a Yahoo Group or a Google+ community and post a request for the supplies you need. You can even use this group to promote your school supplies drive.

  4. Utilize Your Community
    Contact local churches, charities and nonprofit organizations, and research local distribution projects. The American Red Cross usually holds school supplies drives at their local chapters. "No family should have to choose between food and school supplies, as some families feel they must do," says Iverson. "We help each other, and that is what it means to be a community."

  5. Seek Out Backpack Programs
    Backpack programs -- such as the Office Depot Foundation's National Backpack Program, Schools on Wheels and School Ready Supplies -- donate supply-filled backpacks to students.

  6. Go Online
    Craigslist doesn't just sell items, it gives them away for free! Under the "For Sale" category, click on "free" and search for whatever supplies your child needs. You can also search Freecycle.org, a grassroots movement that connects people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns.

  7. Check With Your School District
    Some states require public school districts to provide necessary school supplies to children. Certain districts are also required to provide books and school supplies for children whose parents cannot otherwise afford them.

As you can see, there are numerous ways to get back-to-school supplies without breaking the bank. A little research and some preparation can go a long way toward supplying your child with the tools for success.

Kayla Mossien is a writer for prominent blogs and websites and is the former editor-in-chief of PARENTGUIDE News.

Aug. 25, 2016

I need help with school supplies. How does this work?

Aug. 24, 2016

How to get free school supplies when struggling

Aug. 21, 2016

I live in the 60634 area and was trying to find out if there are any school fairs with free school supplies and backpack ? If so can I please get a date n location thank you! In chicago

Aug. 20, 2016

Hello I'm a mother of 2. Ones going to kindergarten and the other is going in the 2nd grade and i an in need of school supplies please help us

Aug. 20, 2016

I am in need of school supplies and uniforms for my grandson to go back to school for pre- k.

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