Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.
The back-to-school season can come with some family-wide stress, but it can also be a joy. From an updated wardrobe and new friends to crisp fall weather and stocking up on school supplies, there are many reasons for kids, teens, college students, and even parents to get excited for a new school year.
Speaking of school supplies, do you know where to find the best selection and deals on notebooks, binders, paper, writing utensils, art supplies, calculators, and other digital gadgets? In the modern world, more and more people are shopping for these items online. However, heading to a brick-and-mortar store is often part of the fun. Whichever medium you prefer, we found a retailer that'll meet your needs before the bell rings.
Scroll down for a rundown of the best places to buy school supplies online and in person.
Unsurprisingly, Amazon is an excellent resource for affordable back-to-school items. There are hundreds of thousands of products in its office and school supplies section, not to mention textbooks, computers, printers, and tablets. Shipping is usually fast and free with a Prime membership, and you can save even more by auto-replenishing your favorite items using the "Subscribe & Save" feature.
"I would say that the best place to buy school supplies online would be Amazon. They usually have better deals/prices, and you can get a lot more for your buck. You can buy things in bulk, too, which is great." — Jade Van Der Elst, 4th grade teacher from Louisville, Kentucky
When it comes to budget-friendly school supplies, Walmart is a tried-and-true destination. You'll find crayons and watercolor paints for little kids, folders and ruled paper for older kids, Twin XL sheets for the college-bound, and everything in between.
Walmart's online interface is no slouch either. You can filter your search by category, product type, brand, and school grade. There's even a classroom supplies section for teachers! The selection isn't quite as robust as Amazon's, but you're sure to find what you're looking for and then some.
Target is a great place to shop both in-person and online, with tens of thousands of product offerings at agreeable price points. When you browse the website, you'll find essentials from top brands and trendy, curated items for those looking for a little flair. With most orders, you can get two-day shipping or opt for in-store pickup. Every summer the retailer offers the Target Teacher Discount, a six-week summer event when teachers get 15 percent off school supplies.
"Target is my go-to for in-person supplies. I usually get what I need in the summer because they do a special promotion for teachers, plus they have a lot of back-to-school supplies for cheaper prices. I also LOVE checking out Target Dollar Spot. They have cute and affordable decor for your classroom, especially during summer." — Jade Van Der Elst, 4th grade teacher from Louisville, Kentucky
While other retailers offer their school supplies seasonally, Staples sells school and office accessories all year long. Whether you're shopping in person or online, you'll find a massive inventory of back-to-school basics for all ages. We're talking flashcards, highlighters, colored pencils, permanent markers, calculators, binders, backpacks, poster board, desk chairs, tablets, you name it. Delivery is typically free and fast—no minimums required—and you can even arrange for same-day pickup.
Bed Bath & Beyond
Bed Bath & Beyond might not be the first place you think of for back-to-school shopping, but school supplies definitely fall into the "Beyond" category. Whether your child is in grade school or heading off to college, the retailer is sure to have at least a few things on your list.
While you may want to shop elsewhere for basics, you'll find a decent selection of higher-end items. From dorm room essentials like shower caddies, laundry baskets, and storage solutions to pencil cases, folders, and desk organizers, Bed Bath & Beyond has something for everyone at every stage.
In today's world, school supplies go far beyond paper and pencils. From the start of middle school (and sometimes earlier), schoolwork often calls for laptops, tablets, calculators, thumb drives, and other tech products.
You know you can count on Best Buy for these gadgets, but what you might not know is that the retailer also carries a variety of niche items. This includes label makers, UV disinfecting wands, and smart notebooks—to name a few. Best Buy offers a pretty generous return policy, too, so you can get your money back if you buy something that doesn't quite fit your needs.
The Container Store
In terms of school-related products, The Container Store mostly caters to college students, as it offers myriad storage solutions fit for dorm rooms. However, there are lots of great items geared toward at-home learning and some high-end essentials that could be used by older kids.
When you browse the selection, you'll find a curated selection of markers, pens, notebooks, scissors, staplers, and sticky notes. Then there's a range of slightly more sophisticated items, like page-markers, lazy Susan desk organizers, label makers, and phone stands.
For those transitioning from living at home to a dorm room lifestyle, Urban Outfitters is an excellent place to shop. The young adult-approved retailer offers a bunch of cool desk supplies and studying essentials for a home-away-from-home.
This includes desks, chairs, lamps, pens, desk organizers, phone charging stations, mousepads, dry-erase boards, alarm clocks, mug warmers, and printer stands. Urban Outfitters even has an entire notebook category chock full of options from various brands with trendy cover art.
Rifle Paper Co.
If you're looking for a planner or desk calendar, you should definitely take a peek at the offerings from Rifle Paper Co. Part whimsy and part Type A, the brand carries notebooks and accessories with hand-painted floral designs, botanicals, and preppy stripes.
Beyond products that help you stay on top of your schedule, Rifle Paper has lots of other goodies for the organized-at-heart. We're talking clipboards, file folders, binder clips, washi tape, letter trays, and even a designated notebook for your sticky notes.
What to Look for When Buying School Supplies
School supplies can add up and be a major expense, regardless of the age of the student. Electronics, book bags, and even smaller items can cost more than expected. Comparing prices, especially for more expensive items, can save you a lot of money. Store sales as well as tax free days are common in many states right before the school year starts so if you can wait until these events occur, you can keep more money in your pocket.
Some stores and online retailers may advertise a low price but never seem to have the item you need in stock. Finding places with a wide selection and large stock of school supplies will help ensure what you need is going to actually be available for purchase. Even online retailers may not have every item in stock despite it being for sale so make sure your purchase will be delivered by the time you need it. Sometimes paying a little more for something is worth it if you are guaranteed to get it before school starts.
Choices are important when it comes to school supplies. You or your child may want something in a certain size, style, or color and if you don't have options where you are shopping, you'll be left with no choice but to purchase whatever is available. Stores with a wide variety of options make school supply shopping more fun and the student gets to display their individuality by choosing things that resonate with them.
Where can I find school supplies in bulk?
Online retailers, warehouse stores, and office supply stores are likely to have some school supplies in bulk, especially if they are the same supplies that are used in offices. You may not have as many options or as much variety when buying in bulk, but doing so might save you time and money. Before you decide on a bulk purchase, make sure you will actually need and use all the supplies you are buying in that large quantity.
Where can I find cute school supplies?
Online retailers will give you the greatest selection of school supplies; you're bound to find some you think are cute. If you would rather see the supplies in person before making a purchase, look at the store displays that highlight new items, sales ads, and stores that sell more than just school and office supplies. Sometimes grocery stores, clothing stores, dollar stores and other places that you wouldn't commonly think of to purchase school supplies will have a few cute items near the checkout register.
Where can I find discount school supplies?
Shopping sales ads is the best way to find discount school supplies, but you can get ahead on next year's supply list by looking at the clearance racks in stores after school has already started for the year. This is especially true if you are shopping for trendy school supplies that may not be as trendy next year. If this doesn't bother you or your student, you can find some great discounts. Facebook groups and garage sales may also have supplies for sale at a steep discount.
What are the best options for discount notebooks?
If you're looking to save some money on notebooks, look at what you may already have in your home. More often than not, notebooks are not completely used before the end of a school year. Don't be afraid to remove the used pages and make use of the rest of the notebook. Otherwise, watch those sales ads to find when notebooks go on sale.
Where can I find cool school supplies?
Some school supplies are standard and won't be very cool, but others will change designs each year based on trends. Online retailers will advertise these cool school supplies, but be sure to also check out specific brands that your student likes. Even if that brand doesn't normally make school supplies, they often will have items specially made for the school season with their logo or other identifiers on them.
Why Trust The Spruce?
The Spruce contributor Theresa Holland is a seasoned commerce writer specializing in home goods, storage solutions, organization, and work-from-home products. She's a big fan of each of these retailers and can personally vouch for their product selections, and also relied on expert recommendations to compile this list. Check out more stories by Theresa on MyDomaine, Verywell Family, and Byrdie. Additional reporting was done by Adrienne Kruzer, Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT). Adrienne has written for The Spruce Pets for several years.