Save Money with Back to School Sales and Summer Clearances

I know it seems hard to believe but summer has passed the mid-way point (that was August 5th) and it’s time to start looking towards fall. That means getting ready by shopping the two big events that occur at this time every shopping year: Back to School Sales and Summer Clearances.

You're still enjoying summer, but August is the time for Back to School sales and summer clearances. Here's how to save money while getting ready for fall.

Despite my spending over 30 years in the retail business (most of those in malls when they were the kings of retail), I still feel like you do and shake my head when I realize that in August we are already talking about the fall. I remember those “fun days” shopping for my kids at the back to school and summer clearances and although it wasn’t the highlight of my summers back then, it was worth the time and prep to save some real money.

Even though you are still spending your time in the sun and herding the kids to the pool or catching the camp bus, believe it or not the stores in your area are getting everything ready for fall which is just a few more weeks away. The space they devote to summer clothes and outdoor activity items is super valuable and they have to start right now to make room for all of the new things that will be on your shopping list come September and October. That’s why summer clearance sales are at the height of summer. Make any sense to you? Probably not but you aren’t sitting on millions of dollars of inventory either so trust me it makes a lot of sense (and dollars too!).

August Deals

Here’s the skinny on what you can take advantage of in August:

1. Back to School savings up to 75% off regular prices

You can’t escape seeing all of the notebooks, pens, pencils and papers that are in every store you go into, including your local supermarket. This is the biggest time of the year for anything about school supply shopping. Stocking up on what the kids really need is now, but do shop wisely with a few things in mind.

In recent years, the best places to buy supplies have been Walmart, Staples, Office Depot and your local supermarkets for the sharpest pricing. But don’t forget your friendly dollar store for basics and great prices too.

  • Most kids get an actual list from their schools as to what is required, so make sure you are truly buying those things and not just what is the trendy hot new stuff your kids want.
  • Make your list with a budget in mind that’s reasonable and affordable. Stick to your list.
  • Shop from the hundreds of ads in newspapers, flyers, and online to see what deals are out there. Coupons abound as well as buy one, get one free items (BOGO’s). Look for ways to use manufacturer’s coupons, store coupons, and sale prices together to maximize your discounts (double stacking or triple stacking).
  • Look for college student needs especially for “dorm” life. Everything from linens to computers is being promoted at stores like Walmart, Best Buy, and Bed Bath and Beyond.
  • Kids clothing and shoes are always a huge part of back to school, and your first look at sales for the fall clothes occur in August. Even if your kids are older and heading off to college, they will be looking to get everything from the basics to fashions that will be their wardrobe this fall. Last year, Old Navy and Walmart lead the way in great pricing.

2. Summer merchandise is on sale in August

Here are some of the best opportunities to buy now for next season or even use over the second half of this summer. Bathing suits, shorts, and tees and everything summer will be marked down from 20-50% this month. The same rules apply when you shop summer clothes i.e. look for BOGO’s and coupons to maximize your savings. Final sales will be in September but by then the selection will be scarce even if the prices are lower. Stores have a goal of ridding themselves of summer goods by mid-September, especially after the Labor Day sales.

  • Look for things like backyard grills, lawn care, and pool supplies and equipment. Places like Home Depot, Lowes, and Sears (while they are still breathing that is) will be your best deals. Stay away from the patio furniture until September. That’s the traditional best time to buy the clearance merchandise.
  • Camping supplies are a deal in August at places like Dick’s and specialty stores like Cabela’s for example. Look online for deals too. You might even consider a kayak if you’re really looking for adventure!

3. Sales tax holidays

In many states (18 as of this date), August is the time when you get a break on your state’s sales taxes, and school supplies and clothing are important items on the list to save. Check out the list to see exactly when and all the particulars that your state may offer.

Also, some states have 0% sales taxes. They are Delaware, Oregon, Montana, New Hampshire, and Alaska. If you live close to any of these states, consider crossing the state lines and save up to 9% on your shopping bill. Here is a map and listing of state taxes in the USA as of 2017.

Final Tips for August Sales

Watching your budget and keeping your shopping and spending under control is something that most of us are concerned about. That’s why if you are out looking for your family’s real needs like “Back to School” you need to be armed with information that can save you your hard earned dollars.

Before you set a foot out the door, there are two more important tips I suggest. First, check out your closets to see if there are still any good conditioned clothes that still fit and are not out of date. Things like denim jeans or sweatshirts come to mind as well as sneakers and shoes. No reason to spend needlessly.  Second, look at last year’s actual school supplies that are probably in a backpack or drawer somewhere around the house. Using a pen or notepad from last year that is still around and in good condition may sound like scrimping, but it just makes good sense to not waste any resources, doesn’t it?

Enjoy your summer and good weather as long as you can of course. But on that rainy day ahead sometime this month, you may want to get a head start on the summertime clearances and school savings before they run short of what you really need. What’s your plan and strategy to prepare for Back to School? Are you shopping summer for yourself and your family? Do you use any other tricks to save on the summer swan song?


  1. Emily @

    This is an area where we both benefit and suffer from the year-round schedule. Plus: we don’t lose anything over the summer (our grade-switching break is a week long) and there’s no need for new clothes just to go back to school. We can wait for cooler weather for more jeans and long sleeve shirts.

    Minus: We have to get supplies in early July before the school supply sales start in earnest. This year, we got what we needed for the beginning of the year, then stocked up on extras (glue sticks, paper, pencils, and erasers) this month when they were on deeper discount.

    My biggest call is that Little Bit is saving for her very own Chromebook. But since she wants a cheaper computer, and will likely have the money saved up around November, I think I’ll wait for the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales instead of getting one now. If she was saving for one of the more powerful ones, I might have to work a deal now.

    1. You seem to have a pretty good plan in place and it works well for you. There’s always the thought that shopping later (in August rather than July) will give you a better deal, but of course the longer one waits, the chance increases that you won’t be able to find exactly what you want. Waiting for the clothing that they’ll use in the fall and winter, certainly the assortment will be there beyond September so that may be a wise decision. Thanks for sharing your strategy.

  2. We try and take advantage of the off season/end of season clearance and sales. It has certainly gotten easier as our kids have gotten older when purchasing clothes and shoes, they are not growing as fast as when they were younger.

    Also, we have found we have less of a supply list for school once we hit middle and high school. Online comparison shopping is our friend.

    1. Good points, Brian. Certainly when kids are small, it’s almost a requirement to replace the clothes every school year. Most teens today, although they do have their own fashion sense, probably like to wear some of their favorites and are not in the market for everything new. And you’re right about the online shopping. It’s a great way to save time and energy, and still get the best deals.

  3. Prudence Debtfree

    I get so annoyed with back-to-school ads at this time of the summer! Maybe because I’m a teacher? When I taught 2-credit summer school, it wasn’t even finished at this point! But advanced planning is always a good and money-saving thing. My youngest is just about to start her first post-secondary year. We’re passing the torch to her insofar as back-to-school purchases go. Thanks (kind of) for the reminder that now is the time to start talking about it with her.

    1. You’re welcome, Pru. I agree it is a little annoying with all this hoopla toward back to school. But on the other side of the coin, it’s probably exciting for your daughter to get to go shopping for her specific supplies and some new clothes too. So try to enjoy the experience at least for her sake. 🙂

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