It is 3 am and you wake up in a cold sweat. You are horrified and tormented; deeply troubled. You didn’t have a bad dream. No aliens teleported you and probed with sticks and lasers. Nope. It was much worse. It was the thought of back to school shopping! That’s right, the day has come to begin buying shoes, socks, backpacks and lunch pales. You need glue sticks, pencils and pens, oh my! You are a parent. And your wallet better beware; for back to school time means dollar signs. Or does it?
Every parent usually looks to unload their wallets during this time of year. But there is an art to shopping and saving money. These simple tips in the Back to School Shopping series can help you tremendously. Let’s begin the series with school supplies….
Each year, a school puts out a supply list. I am certain that most parents will not keep the lists from year to year. In fact, schools count on this. That is why they put those lists in Wal-Mart and Kmart, weeks in advance of the start to school. However, if you were to keep a list for a couple of years, you would find one thing; the list hasn’t really changed. Educators become creatures of habit like no other. Therefore, parents can use a list from the 2009 school year, to buy supplies for the 2010 and so on, school years. Knowing this is tip number one for saving money. Buy in bulk and stock up!
That’s right. Even though your son or daughter only needs 3 composition notebooks, you can buy 20 and save them for years to come. This way, you will have the supplies in case your child’s notebook becomes lost or stolen, and if they run out of it before the end of the year. Still, where are the best places to look for such supplies?
School supplies should be broken into categories. For example, paper consists of notebooks, loose leaf, composition books, construction, etc. Writing utensils, electronics, and drawing/ art supplies can round out a list. I have combed the market for the best deals and well, this is what I have come up. Wal-Mart is the safest bet to buying the best and cheapest supplies of the paper variety.
Right now, through the end of the summer, Wal-Mart is selling 1 subject, 70 count notebooks for .15 a piece. Office Depot, on the other hand, sells the same product in a 6 pack for $1.00. If you do a cost comparison, 6 notebooks at Wal-Mart would be .90 cents, versus the $1.00 that you pay at Office Depot. The same is true of composition notebooks. Wal-Mart has these on sell for a quarter a piece. Most other places are selling them for a range of .50 cents to $1.00. About now, many of you are wondering why I never said Target because their prices are about the same as Wal-Mart. Well, Target recently increased the price of their composition notebooks and loose leaf paper. Thus, Wal-Mart wins the price war.
2. Writing Utensils
If you want writing utensils, I highly suggest Walgreens! I bet you didn’t expect that name to come up. Well, for the last three weeks, Walgreens has consistently beaten the market prices on pens, pencils, erasers, highlighters and sharpeners. In fact, I recall last week, Walgreens had mechanical pencils on sale for .29 cents for a 10 packet. Their limit was 6 per day, but if you go back, for just 3 days, you will have amassed 180 mechanical pencils. (Hey, shopping is an art and hard work!) The same is true for pens. While most retail stores- like your Wal-Marts and Targets- are selling pens for .50 cents to one dollar, per pack, Walgreens has them on sale for .29, .39 and .49 cents, respectively. Plus, there is no limit on their pens! Sharpeners and highlighters have run- during opposing weeks- for .29 to .39 cents a piece/ pack.
Tip number 2: Walgreens will match items in their store if they run out. Thus, ask for the rain check or the price match. You will get your item. You can also use rain checks at other leading stores who accept competitor ads like Wal-Mart and Target.
Target leads the market on their prices for electronics. For the last three weeks, I have seen calculator- TI- 83, Scientific and general- for as little as $70, $9 and $3 dollars respectively. Likewise, many schools are now moving towards requiring students to have jump or flash drives for saving materials. Target has 4 GB Flash drives, on sale, for $9. This price is cheaper than some electronic stores. Parents can also look to Target for electronic dictionaries-17.99 & $24.99 -, tape recorders-20.00 – and more.
4. Drawing/ Art Supplies
Many of you reading will believe that you know what place I am about to name for drawing and art supplies. Go on, try to guess… Did you say, Wal-Mart? If you did, you are wrong. Would you like another shot? Go on, take your time….Nope, not Staples either….Give up, yet? Well, I will tell you. The place with the best prices on art/ drawing supplies is… Big Lots! Big Lots is not a traditional store that many individuals associate with school supply shopping. However, Big Lots is a hidden gem! Right now, they have glue sticks on sell, 10 for $1.00 (.10 a piece), scissors are .25 cents a pair, colored pencils, .75 cents a pack, dry erase marker, $3.00 a pack for an 8 pack and construction paper packages for $1.50!
So go on out and search those store aisles and shelves! Be my guest. You will find the same things that I have, I assure you. Remember, when in doubt, buy it out! You want to stock up on supplies while they are cheap. You never know what you will need later. Do you have questions about a specific item? Send me a message. I probably know where to find that item too.
Best wishes & Happy Shopping….