School Supplies Deals
Comparing Prices across Colorado stores and 4 tips to save on school supplies.
Back to school shopping is in full swing with many schools starting in the next few weeks. According to Deloitte’s National Back to School Survey, parents will spend on average $501 on back to school shopping in 2017 which includes $112 on school supplies including backpacks and lunch boxes this year. With so many ads, sales and prices out there how do you know the best place to shop for your kid’s school supplies? It can be overwhelming, especially with new ads and sales coming out each week.
We’ve compared the prices of 28 of the most popular school supplies across local Colorado stores including King Soopers, Walmart, Target, Staples, Safeway and Office Max and the results were surprising. You can expect to pay on average around $50 – $68 for supplies for kindergarten through 6th grade, but where you shop definitely matters in terms of the bottom line.
Colorado School Supply Price Comparison
King Soopers won the price comparison for these 28 products with a final price of $39.42 because of their aggressive sale prices on school supplies. While King Soopers is not the lowest in every category, the prices on just a couple of larger ticket items like Crayola Washable Markers, highlighters, White Out and scissors were lower than Walmart and Target, which accounted for the win. There is also a King Soopers digital coupon available over on schoolyearsavings.com for $5 off $20 in school supplies, which will bring the total even lower.
Of course your total price will vary based on your child’s list and quantities of items they need, but you can expect to pay about 10 – 12% more at Walmart, 19 – 20% more at Target, almost 40% more at Staples, and a whopping $45 or 54% more if you were to buy these school supplies on Amazon.com. This is due to Amazon’s multi-pack pricing, which are really not competitive with the single unit pricing at the big box stores.
Staples came in $25 higher than King Soopers, however Staples does have a 110% price-match guarantee. So, if you can bring in an advertised price that is cheaper than the Staples price, they will match the price and give you another 10% off. While that sounds great, you really have to work for this deal and take the time to show each and every price match from an ad or your mobile phone to get the extra 10% back. The majority of these prices are not advertised at all.
While King Soopers was the cheapest for this particular list, they do have a slightly smaller selection of school supplies than the big box stores, (but surprisingly vast) so if you are looking for a large variety of items, you can always split your list and pick up the majority of items at King Soopers and the rest elsewhere. I personally got 98% of my kids school supplies at King Soopers, one box of 12 red Ticonderoga pencils that my 1st grader had to have at Amazon and plastic Mead folders at Target.
Here are 4 tips to save money and your sanity on school supply shopping:
Shop off-peak hours and leave the little ones at home
The best time to shop for school supplies is first thing in the morning or after 8 pm when store traffic is light. Avoid shopping during the rush times of 4-7 and on the weekends when the stores are especially busy.
If you can, leave your younger kids at home (ages 4-8). While it may seem like a good idea to let Joey pick out his own folders and notebooks, it makes for a longer and more expensive process in the end. School supply lists have on average 25 specific items you are hunting for. Plan to spend 45 minutes to one hour just getting the supplies. You can always let the younger kids pick out a backback or lunchbox so they feel like they went back to school shopping. Older kids (like 9 and older) really enjoy the back to school shopping experience, but its good to set expectations ahead of time about your budget so that you are on the same page with your child at the store.
Check out store brands
While some school supply lists are very specific about brands of markers or pencils, you’ll likely be scratching your head at the store when you see the difference in the store brand vs. the premium brand pricing. The biggest difference I found was in store brand three ring binders, scissors, #2 pencils, and spiral notebooks. The store brands of notebooks and binders seemed to be the same quality as the premium brands, so there’s no need to pay more.
Use technology to compare prices, price match and get coupons before you shop
It pays to compare prices before you shop. Use the free uGrocery app to compare prices and create a shopping list for each store before you go to the stores.
You can price match advertised sales at Target, Walmart, and Staples. Be sure to have the digital circulars ready to show all the advertised sales you want to price match at checkout.
Check out the Target Cartwheel mobile app and the King Soopers app before you shop for extra school supply discounts. There is a dedicated Back to School section with discounts and coupons for supplies. If shopping at Walmart, be sure to use the Walmart Savings Catcher app to get any competitors advertised prices automatically loaded to a Walmart e-gift card.
Shop online for a quick and easy school supply buying experience
If you are pressed for time or if want to avoid the crazy back to school section of the big box stores, you can always place your order online. Many of the retailers are offering free shipping with a min purchase order. After trying to place my kids school supplies order online using Target.com, Amazon.com and Walmart.com, I felt that the simplest, most user-friendly experience was with Target.com, followed by King Soopers ClickList. If you have a Target Redcard, you get free shipping, an extra 5% off and you can skip the crazy school supply section in the store entirely. Here is one place you can let your kids help out in choosing colors for folders, etc. and imagine their faces when all their supplies show up in a nice packaged box next week. With King Soopers ClickList, you can add all the school supplies to your grocery order and pick them up with your groceries, making for a one-stop shop.
Eva Fry is a grocery pricing and consumer savings expert. She is the co-founder of the free grocery price comparison app uGrocery. Consumers can create their own shopping lists for comparison with a free uGrocery account.