Consumer Reports: Saving on back to school supplies

July 29, 2013 2:32:49 PM PDT
It's that time of year again when thoughts turn from swimming and sunscreen to school supplies.

It also means big sales on everything back-to-school.

Consumer Reports ShopSmart magazine has done some homework, sizing up everyday prices to help you find the best bargains.

For many kids, the start of school brings the excitement of shopping for school supplies.

"I like folders so much because they could store lots of things," said Genna.

So where do you get the best prices on all these supplies?

"Stores lure you in with great deals, like pencils for a penny. But you have to be careful or you could wind up paying too much for the other items on your list," said Jody Rohlena with ShopSmart Magazine.

ShopSmart magazine wanted to know which stores had the best everyday deals, and sent secret shoppers to check prices at Office Depot, Staples, Target, and Walmart.

And the bargains weren't always where you'd expect.

"You might think an office-supply store is the best place to go, but often it wasn't," said Jody Rohlena.

In fact, Staples and Office Depot tied for the highest prices on most items. Store-brand, two-pocket folders at Staples cost a dollar-one, compared to Walmart's 48 cents.

How about notebooks? Mead, Five-Star, one-subject notebooks at Staples go for $6.02 but Walmart's got 'em for $2.76.

And loose-leaf paper? Norcom brand packages of 150 sheets at Office Depot were $3.01. Go to Walmart, and you'll pay just 82 cents.

"Walmart had the least-expensive prices on the most items. And in many cases, Target was right behind them," adds Rohlena.

ShopSmart says as a general rule look for store brands. They can save you nearly 75 percent.

ShopSmart also suggests asking for a price match if you see a better deal somewhere else. Office Depot, Staples, Target, and Walmart all have price-matching policies. Just bring an ad to the store from your local paper, or call it up on your smart phone to get the better price.