10 Ways To Get Free School Supplies

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free school supplies

Did you know that there are many ways to get free school supplies for your kids? School supplies, just like everything else, have greatly increased in cost over the last few years.

If your budget is tight or you are in need due to a life event of some kind, take advantage of the ideas here to help you lighten the financial burden of purchasing back-to-school supplies. 

How To Get Free School Supplies

This year’s back-to-school costs survey by the National Retail Federation shows that the average family plans on spending just over $890 for back-to-school costs this year. 

$900 is no small chunk of change, especially these days as we battle rising food, energy and transportation costs. 

In order to help lessen the back-to-school blow to your budget, we’ve compiled a list of 10 ways you may be able to get school supplies for free. 

Utilize one or more of these options to help your family prepare for back-to-school needs such as notebooks, writing utensils, backpacks and more. 

As you’re working to get free school supplies, check out these other hacks to help you save money. 

1. Contact Your School District Office

Local school district offices are often kept abreast of organizations that offer free school supplies. 

Reach out to your school district’s office administrator or contact your child’s teacher directly to learn more about where you may be able to get free school supplies. 

In fact, depending on where you live you may be able to find a number of free school supply events in your area. 

You might find local nonprofit organizations, malls and more hosting events where kids can get free supplies, haircuts, backpacks and more just for stopping by. 

And when organizations host these types of events, the local school district is usually the first place they contact so that school officials can spread the word. 

Communicate with school officials to get information on free school supply events, and then pay it forward by sharing the information with other families in need. 

2. Reach Out to Local Churches

Local churches, synagogues, mosques and other religious organizations often have back-to-school drives where they collect donations from parishioners and the general public.

During these drives, they’ll collect backpacks, paper, pencils, crayons, rulers and other items to be given to those in need.

Then they’ll donate collected supplies directly to those in need in the community. Or they’ll donate to an organization such as the Salvation Army that distributes free school supplies. 

They may even donate directly to the school district, which then redistributes the supplies. 

Contact local religious organizations near you to see if they are hosting a school supplies drive, and if so, where they will be directing donations to go. 

If they aren’t hosting, see if they know of a religious organization that may be hosting a drive. Another option: Post an ask on your community’s Facebook page and ask if anyone knows of any religious or other organizations doing a school supply drive. 

3. Talk with the Kids in Need Foundation

The Kids in Need Foundation (KINF for short) was founded for the purpose of “creating equitable learning environments for teachers and students in underserved communities.”

This foundation is so efficient at its purpose that a donation of just $1 will supply kids with $24 in supplies to teachers and students. 

The Kids in Need Foundation works together with local organizations and businesses to assemble “backpack builds” for students in qualifying communities. 

The foundation offers the supplies, and community members come together to build backpacks full of all of the necessary supplies for students. 

You can contact The Kids in Need Foundation to see if they offer any programs in your area. If they don’t, you can contact your school officials and put them in touch with the Kids in Need Foundation. 

From there, your child’s school can go about the process of seeing if the district is eligible for the Build a Backpack or other Kids in Need Foundation programs to provide school supplies for students in your area. 

Another benefit of the organization is that they have a Teacher Resource Center where teachers in qualifying school districts can get free supplies for their classroom. 

This is a literal store-like setup where teachers can shop for free supplies that are displayed in an organized and attractive manner. 

4. Contact the Salvation Army

The Salvation Army is a charitable organization that helps communities during natural disasters, provides humanitarian aid and more. 

Each summer, the Salvation Army works to collect and distribute free school supplies across the country. 

You may be able to get individual school supplies or backpacks filled with supplies. Start by contacting the Salvation Army via the link above. 

Enter your zip code to get a list of ways the Salvation Army helps your community. Then click on relevant options to get another list.

This second list will show you a host of places the Salvation Army partners with, such as community centers and churches. 

From there you can find events such as school supply drives. If you’re having difficulty finding events, call the Salvation Army customer service number and ask for assistance. 

The Salvation Army customer service representative should be able to direct you as to where to go to see if there are free supplies in your area. 

5. Take Advantage of Military Benefits

Are you a military family? If so, you may be able to get free school supplies by participating in Operation Homefront’s Back to School Brigade.

The Back to School Brigade is an event that distributes school supplies to eligible dependents of military members. 

You can get everything from pencils to backpacks and much more if you’re eligible for this event. 

Volunteers from around the globe help bring this event together each year, along with partner stores such as the Dollar Tree. 

If you are an eligible military family (DEERS enrolled, kids between K-12th grade), reach out to Operation Homefront. 

The customer service reps there will instruct you on the registration process, as you must be registered in order to receive free school supplies. 

Also, this is a first come, first served program with a limited number of supplies available. For that reason, you’ll want to register early!

Note: You may also want to consider getting involved to help organize this annual program, whether or not you’re a military member. 

Helping with this program can be a great way to say “thank you” to our military members for their service. 

6. Contact Boys and Girls Clubs of America

The Boys and Girls Clubs of America was founded in 1860 with the goal of helping children find positive ways to spend their time. 

Today, this nonprofit organization has evolved to encompass several programs such as mentorship programs and more:

  • Character and leadership programs
  • Health and wellness programs
  • Arts programs
  • Workforce readiness programs
  • Sports and recreation programs

The Boys and Girls Clubs of America also offers education programs including school supply drives. 

The local chapters of Boys and Girls Clubs of America often collect school supplies and give them to families in need. 

Reach out to your local chapter to learn more about school supply giveaways and getting on the list of recipients. 

You can find contact information for your local chapter by clicking on the link above and searching by city, zip code or address.

7. Reach Out to the United Way

The United Way has been working to help people and communities in need since 1887. In fact, you may even partner with United Way at work to donate some of your paycheck to the organization.

The United Way helps communities and families in a number of fashions. And the organization has been coordinating back-to-school supply drives for decades. 

Reach out to your local United Way chapter to find out if there is a back-to-school supply drive at a location near you. 

The local United Way chapters often sponsor school supply drives in partnership with community centers, churches or other organizations. 

If your local United Way chapter doesn’t have a school supply drive, or if you don’t have a local chapter in your area, consider partnering with United Way. 

The charity has a page on their website where you can contact United Way about organizing a school supply drive using the United Way name. 

Members in many communities have taken the lead and worked with United Way to start a school supply drive if there isn’t already one in the area. 

That way you can do good while getting your child’s school supplies for free. 

8. Get in Touch With Community Centers

Does your neighborhood have a community center? Neighborhood community centers are another place to ask about getting free school supplies. Community centers exist to encourage the gathering of community members in healthy ways.

At your local community center you might find a variety of events offered, such as athletic or art classes. 

You also might find events such as movie nights, music nights or farmers markets. In addition, community centers often have back-to-school supply drives where they ask people to donate a variety of supplies. 

At the same time, they’ll collect a list of those in need of free school supplies so they have an idea of what and how much they’d like to collect. 

If you are unaware of any community centers near you, do an internet search and see if you can locate one.

Then search the community center’s events page or calendar page to find out about specific activities such as back-to-school supply drives. 

9. Organize Your Own School Supplies Drive

If you can’t find a back-to-school supply drive at your community center or at another place near you, why not organize your own? 

Reach out on social media community pages and announce your plan for a back-to-school supplies drive. 

Tell people what to donate and where to bring it, and ask others to join you in organizing the drive. At the same time, encourage those in need to get on the list to receive free school supplies so you have an idea of how much of each item you need to collect. 

Choose a date for volunteers to organize the donations and for recipients to pick up the donations.  

Don’t worry if you haven’t organized an event similar to this one before. Just take it day by day, and deal with roadblocks as they come. 

Most of all, don’t be discouraged if your first drive is on the smaller side. Consider making it an annual event and watch it grow each year. 

10. Look Online

If all else fails—and even if it doesn’t-–it never hurts to check online sites such as Facebook, Craigslist or similar sites to see if you can find free school supplies. 

Sites like Eventbrite list local back to school events that offer free supplies.

Parents and teachers who are cleaning and organizing often find notebooks, backpacks, pencils and more that they no longer need or use. 

Or they may just have too many for their needs. Look under the “free” sections on popular buy/sell sites, or make your own post asking if anyone has any school supplies they want to get rid of. 

Go through your own supply so that you know exactly what you need before you make a post. People will find it easier to accommodate you if they know what types of school supplies you need. 

For that reason, it’s important to be specific and ask for pencils, notebooks or other things your child may need. 

Another idea: Look for your community’s “Buy Nothing” page on Facebook and ask for the school supplies you need. You never know what other community members may want to clear out of their houses. 

Interested in getting more free stuff? Check out our article on how to get free stuff online. You’ll learn how to get loads of free stuff from beauty products to baby stuff. 


There are many ways to get free school supplies if you’re willing to look around. Use the tips above to find everything your child needs, at no cost to you. 

Having school supplies will empower children to participate in the learning process. They are more than just tools. They are a great vehicle for kids for learning, self expression, and personal growth.