Back-to-School Shopping List

From backpacks to notebooks, here's the scoop on what to scoop up

Mother and son shopping for shirts
Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Getty Images

Back-to-school shopping can be a nightmare. Would buying six pairs of jeans be too many? Would buying three be too few? Find out what you really need to buy with this handy back-to-school shopping list.

Clothes

Your kids’ needs will vary according to their age, gender, and how frequently you do laundry, as well as whether they wear uniforms in school. Generally, you’ll want to have:

  • Three to five pairs of jeans
  • Four to five short-sleeved tops
  • Two to four long-sleeved tops
  • Three to five hoodies
  • Two to four sweaters
  • Two to four pairs of pants and/or skirts
  • Five to seven pairs of socks and/or leggings/tights
  • Seven pairs of underwear

Shoes

How many pairs of shoes your kids need, and what kind, will vary with their activity level and their school's dress-cold policies. Generally, your kids will need:

  • Sneakers
  • Casual/dress shoes
  • Flip-flops/sandals/slip-on shoes

Accessories

Many states offering tax-free weekend events for the back-to-school shopping season stipulate that accessories are not tax-free, so you'll want to check with the laws in your state. Some of the accessories you may need to purchase include:

  • Backpack
  • Belt
  • Ponytail holders and/or hair clips

Outerwear

What types of coats, and how many, will depend largely on the climate where you live. In general, most children need each of the following outerwear items:

  • Raincoat
  • Windbreaker or fleece jacket
  • Winter coat
  • Rain boots
  • Snow boots
  • Gloves or mittens
  • Winter hat

Back-to-School Supplies

Contact your child’s school for a specific list of the back-to-school supplies you’ll need to purchase. Generally, you can expect to buy:

  • Two to five spiral notebooks
  • Two to five folder
  • Binder
  • Five to 10 pencils
  • Five to 10 pens
  • Colored pencils
  • Crayons
  • Markers
  • Scissors
  • Glue or glue sticks

School Donations 

Many teachers ask for donations during the back-to-school shopping season, such as:

  • Facial tissue
  • Hand sanitizer

Lunch Items

Besides buying a lunchbox and two freezer packs to keep food cold, you'll want to start stocking up on the items you’ll be packing in your kids’ lunches, including:

  • Juice boxes
  • Sandwich ingredients (like peanut butter and jelly)
  • Snack items (like applesauce and string cheese)
  • Convenient fruits/vegetables (like raisins and baby carrots)
  • Yogurt

By approaching the back-to-school shopping season with a plan, and knowing ahead of time what you need to buy, you'll be able to save money and avoid buying items your kids don't really need this year.