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Back to School Shopping with Estate Sales!

Look. I know it feels like summer has only just begun, but there are only a few short weeks before school is back in. So the prospect of shopping for school supplies looms large, and grows exponentially, depending on how many kids you have returning to the classroom.

And heaven help you if you’ve got kids heading to college.

The costs add up.

But before you head to your local big box store to buy new-fangled supplies for each of your kids, might I recommend spending the next few weeks browsing your local estate sales to supplement your ever-growing list of needs and wants.

There are, of course, items that are difficult to find at estate sales. If your child requires a five-pack of tissues, a 24-pack of a specific brand of pencils, three glue sticks, and two packs of loose-leaf wide-ruled paper, you’ll probably have to buy them retail. But estate sales are a treasure trove for those looking to save some money on school supplies. Here are just a few ideas.

At almost any given estate sale, you’re going to find shelves upon shelves of books. There’s always a chance they’ll not be of interest to you (maybe the previous owner was into Harlequin romance novels, when you’re more of a biography buff), but it’s not uncommon, between rows or self-help and John Grisham, to find at least a few classics.

You can pretty much guarantee that at some point in your child’s education they will be asked to read Charlotte’s Web. Or To Kill a Mockingbird. Or Romeo and Juliet. Or Anna Karenina. OrThe Color Purple. And if they aren’t, your life will be richer for having read them anyway. (Or, if nothing else, it will look richer by having them on your shelves—oh how well-read you are! What an impressive library!) So what do you have to lose?

Children benefit from having a dedicated space to do their homework. And parents benefit from having kids with fewer excuses as to why their kids can’t do their homework. (There’s not enough space! The dining room is too crowded to concentrate!) Whether you’re looking for a traditional school desk to recreate the environment in which they are used to learning, or if you want something bigger, where they can spread out and work in comfort, you’ll find just what you’re looking for when you shop at estate sales.

Office supplies
You’ll often find business liquidation sales on EstateSales.NET, and if you have a child heading off to college, it’s a great opportunity to help furnish his or her dorm room. Tables and chairs are everywhere, though those items may be furnished by the school. Rugs, however, and decent, non-fluorescent lighting options might not be. And if the items at the sale were conducive to running a business, surely they’ll be conducive to educational success as well, right?


Those liquidation sales are also a good time to stock up on inexpensive computer equipment, calculators, and other electronics.

Kitchen basics
For the college-bound, having some basic kitchen supplies is a necessity for on-campus living. Many dorms have shared kitchens, with different levels of equipment available. Arriving with some inexpensive kitchen items on hand (items that could easily end up lost or broken, since that’s what happens in shared living spaces) isn’t a bad idea. Reusable plastic storage containers, too, can be a lifesaver...or, at least, a foodsaver.

Keep your eyes open for mini-fridges, decent coffee makers, and microwaves, as well, if your child’s college allows them in the dorm.

Art supplies
Okay, if you’ve got a child between pre-K and 12th grade, you’ve probably been saddled with a very specific list of needs, with very specific parameters when it comes to art supplies. A box of 64 crayons, perhaps. Watercolor paints. A 24-pack of sharpened colored pencils.

You may or may not find the exact art supplies on your list, but you are likely to find some great supplemental supplies. If your son is going to do a science fair project on how food color affects people’s perceptions of taste, he’s going to need some glitter, right?


And when your daughter needs to create a visual aid for her speech about Roman Empire’s Julio-Claudian dynasty, she’ll need some tempera paint to make sure it really pops, right?

Of course!

Whether you’re at the estate sale of someone with an impressive crafting room filled with a lifetime of well-loved art supplies, or someone who dives head-first into a project only to never finish it, and never use those materials again (not that I would know anything about that), there are plenty of opportunities to load up on good-quality supplies.

The whole shebang
It’s not uncommon to find school liquidations on EstateSales.NET. Furniture is sold off. Textbooks. Overhead projectors. Cafeteria trays. (Oh what I wouldn’t give for a set of green melamine divided lunch trays.) Entire fleets of buses, even!

Okay, maybe you don’t need quite that much in order to get ready for the return to school. (Although, if you’re a part of a community homeschool those buses could make for some epic field trips…) But the fact of the matter is that these resources are made available and affordable at estate sales around the country. If you’ve got kids who come home with reports of broken or lost supplies, or you’re getting ready to load up the car and ship your kid off to college, where the sheer volume of stuff they need is financially overwhelming (don’t think about tuition, don’t think about tuition), the sales posted on EstateSales.NET, and the items available on the EstateSales.NET Marketplace might make the back-to-school preparations just a little less daunting.

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