It can be very expensive to pay for school supplies each year. Many families are seeking low cost uniforms, pencils, notebooks, shoes, and other items for their children. There are some charities, churches as well as non-profits that may provide assistance during the back to school season, namely by offering some struggling shoppers access to cheap supplies for students.
Not only may a parent be able to buy inexpensive items for their children, but teachers can also receive discounted items for their classroom. Some of the programs available include thrift stores as well as clothing closets. There are also fund raisers held by church based groups that will help income qualified families pay for a portion of what they need.
Thrift stores as well as clothing closets offer gently used, but cheap school uniforms, clothing, and maybe some supplies as well. Most counties have a location for their residents to shop in, and they operate year round. The inventory will change on a daily or weekly basis, so it may require stopping by a few times to find exactly what the student needs for the upcoming school year.
Society of Saint Vincent de Paul is heavily dependent on local churches, and some of theme operate Thrift Stores. They will offer cheap school clothes for children of all ages, including teenagers and kids in kindergartners. The reduced priced items are sold by volunteers that work at these church based thrift stores. Most are open limited hours and have a small inventory of school supplies for sale at any time, but anyone can use them regardless of their income, race, religion, and gender. Read more on St. Vincent de Paul assistance programs.
Inexpensive back to school items are also available from another national non-profit that operates thousands of Family Stores. The Salvation Army is a Christian based group make up of case workers. Donations are collected from the public year round, and many retailers such as Wal-Mart also contribute items to the group.
The Family Stores operated by the Salvation Army have everything from gently used furniture to older, cheaper computers, backpacks, binders, winter coats, and much more. Some Family Centers even provide emergency gift cards as well. Tens of thousands of students from low to moderate income households shop there each year. Find help from the Salvation Army.
Goodwill Industries operates thousands of Retail Stores. Donations are accepted from the community. There tends to be a wider range of school supplies sold to the public at affordable prices, and shoppers range in age from kindergarten to college students. There are specialty items sold such as computers or tablets as well as mattresses for dorm rooms and uniforms for private and public schools. There may even be items that cover students that attend Catholic or “Magnet” Schools.
Most of the Goodwill stores have up to 2,000 different items for sale year round. The prices are very competitive. Some items are low cost and some, such as vintage clothes, are sold at more expensive price points. People can shop at any of the three thousands locations year round for school supplies and anything else they need for their home. Call 1-800-466-3945 for information.
Charitable clothing closets are open year round as well. These can be located at any of dozens of sites, from local food pantries to churches or places such as Catholic Charities. The school supplies given are usually sold at a competitive price, but some parents may be given a voucher to pay for the entire cost. This will be an emergency service only.
While most people usually do need to pay a minimal cost for their school supplies (such as binders, hats, or backpacks), there may be free classroom items given out in very rare instances. Examples of when this may be done is for a single mom escaping abuse, spouses of a veteran, or a teacher looking for inexpensive goods for their classroom.
Many of the clothing centers also have thrift stores on site, and these will stock up on back to school supplies during the fall and offer them at a cheap price. While there are no guarantees to finding exactly what may be needed by the child, the goal is to keep a high inventory available for shoppers. Parents may even be able to use coupons or vouchers at some of these locations. Find free items from clothing closets and thrift stores..
These tend to be seasonal services. They often start up in the early summer months and some run through the fall. The application period will normally be available during that period of time as well, and any low cost back to school supplies are provided on a first come and served basis. It is recommended to apply early, such as in June, July, or August at the latest. The leading agencies are below.
Non-profit Community Action Agencies are located in every county across the nation. They run a number of financial assistance programs for low to moderate income families and the working poor as well. The staff at the centers often provide information on places to turn to for cheap school supplies, as the agencies are in effect a place for one-stop shopping to get referrals.
Not only may the Community Action centers have information on local organizations for items such as notebooks, pens, pencils, winter jackets, and even uniforms, but many are involved in administering Head Start or day care services. They also will refer low income parents with a job or that are in training to vouchers to pay for after-school care or child care for their child. So a number of social services are administered. Learn more local community action agencies.
Many government agencies, such as Departments of Human or Social Services, also take a roll in helping students from households that are on welfare or other public aid. Some will offer free supplies, but more likely vouchers are given to offset the costs. Or some DSS sites will refer the family to places to buy gently used but cheap uniforms, back to school items, and more. This service is usually only for existing clients and not the general public. Read more public aid and benefits.
The most affordable school uniforms and items available at thrift stores are sold out quickly. The charities that offer these goods have a limited supply of items available to the public. Therefore in order to be able to select from the largest inventory of cheap back to school supplies, families need to start the shopping or application process as soon as possible.