Saving Secrets: School Supplies

With less than a month out from the start of the school year, parents across the country are probably already receiving the all-important lists for supplies their kids will need come fall. And if you’ve been shopping lately, you’ve probably noticed that back-to-school sales are already in full swing.

The upcoming September issue of ShopSmart magazine, from Consumer Reports, details how to get the best deals on everything your kid will need. Here are the retailers with the best bargains and a few tips to save this year.

Start in Early August

The best time to shop? The magazine says shoppers should start grabbing items and checking them off their lists beginning in early August when deal are and stock are plentiful. And unlike other sales, where prices continue to drop, an analysis of 500 back-to-school deals by consumer site found that 78% of the back to school items selling in July sold at the exact same price in August.

Now, don’t just run into your local office-supply store to buy it all, says Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart. “If you find yourself beyond the sale bins, you could wind up paying more than twice as much as at a discount store,” she says.

Avoid Office Supply Stores

The team at ShopSmart did a price comparison on common back-to-school items, at some popular retailers, so you don’t have to. With a list that included items like glue sticks, notebooks, printer paper, sharpies, pens and pencils, they found that – overall – Walmart had the best deals on most of the supplies, followed  by Target (with just a few cents difference.) For example, the magazine found that Walmart had the lowest price on Elmer’s Washable Glue Sticks, a (3-pack) for $2.94. At Staples, the same product cost nearly double.

More Ways to Save

Finally, to help you navigate the stores and save a few bucks, here are ShopSmart’s “Five Easy Ways to Save on School & Office Supplies.”

1.     Seek store-brand supplies. They’re not easy to find (Walmart had almost none), but shoppers who do can save as much as 74% compared to name-brand supplies.

2.    Check out weekly sales circulars the first of the month for the best deals. Sites such as and link shoppers to local ads for dozens of stores.

3.    Download the Weekly Ads & Sales app. This mobile tool, free for Apple, allows users to view the latest ad pages while on the go without dealing with paper clutter.

4.    Search online for deals. ShopSmart found online prices for OfficeDepot, Staples, Target and Walmart closely matched those in stores, but shoppers may have to shell out for shipping.

5.    Ask for a price match. Shoppers who find a better deal somewhere else can show their phone or a paper ad at checkout at stores with price-matching policies to earn a match or discount.

Photo Courtesy, woodleywonderworks.

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