What to Watch for While Back To School Shopping

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Be prepared to be nickel and dimed

            This last Saturday evening one of my best friends and I went to Wal-Mart to buy school supplies (yeah, we’re party animals).  Our kids go to the same small school, and our oldest boys are in the same class.  We went without our kids, for many reasons, but mainly because we knew we would not spend as much money.  You see, character covered notebooks that my kids beg for are always more expensive than the plain solid colored ones.  It’s not worth the headache so we just go with out them.  Armed with three different class supply lists we headed out to put Wal-Mart’s price guarantees to the test!

I had already gone online and checked out the current week’s ads from Office Max, Staples, Office Depot, Fred Meyer and Target.  It was a piece of cake to find all the ads using www.sundaysaver.com.  You choose your state to narrow down the ads you want to view and then pick the category that best fits your needs.  I went to Department & Grocery Stores and Office Supplies and scoured each one for the supplies I needed.

Under each supply I wrote in the cheapest price and which store it was from.  For the most part it was easy to locate the supplies I needed in each ad but I did find problems with “store brand” items that Wal-Mart (and other stores) can’t price match on.  For example:  We needed 4 solid colored paper pocket folders with prongs.  At Staples they were advertized for $0.05 a piece, and at Office Depot they were only $0.01!  But these pocket folders were Staples and Office Depot store brands so Wal-Mart can not price match them.  Would it be worth it do make a special trip to Office Depot?  Well, at Wal-Mart they were $0.15 a piece for a difference of $0.56 for the 4 of them, definitely not worth the gas or the time.

Here’s something else to watch out for.  Stores will put maybe five or six of the things from your child’s list on sale or a special deal but then the rest of the items are regular price.  It would be great to get the folders mentioned above for $0.01 a piece at Office Depot.  But it’s not worth it to pay $4 (their advertized price) for the Avery Write-on note book dividers that I can get at Wal-Mart for $1.22.

I also found over the course of four weeks that eventually each store runs all the different school supplies through on a special deal.  But it’s just not worth it in time and gas to run to the store four different times for just a few supplies each time.

When you go to stores that price match its great, but you must be very organized about having each ad with you.  Be sure to circle each item in the ads that you are hoping to price match and only bring the pages with you that you need.  Also to make things faster as you are shopping make sure to note under each supply what price is the best and which ad it’s in.  Or better yet, just go to Wal-Mart where you don’t need the ad, just your notes!

While we were at Wal-Mart I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was only one, yes ONE, supply that I even needed to ask for the price match.  All the other items on my list were cheaper at Wal-Mart than any other stores advertized price!  Avery 1” three ring binders were advertized at Target for $2 a piece and at Wal-Mart they were $2.74.  At check out I told the cashier about the price difference and she asked me for my ad.  “D’OH!”  Obviously the corporate ‘no ad needed’ news hadn’t reached the cashier or her manager all the way over here in Oregon.  So I told them about it.  They were really nice about it and price matched the notebooks for me anyway!  I love good customer service even if they were still skeptical of my ‘no ad needed’ claim.  I’ll be sending a nice note Wal-Mart corporate with a gentle reminder about making sure all their employees know about company guarantees.  http://walmartstores.com/10563.aspx

Curious about what was on our lists and what the total was?  Me too!  We didn’t find two items: #2 Ticonderogayellow pencils and a composition book (100 pgs.), they were sold out.  This is where I hit www.amazon.com.  Check back later this week, or sign up for our RSS feed to find out what I bought and for how much!


Side Note:  I was in no way shape or form asked by Wal-Mart, or anyone else for that matter, to write posts mentioning Wal-Mart or anything related to them.  I don’t have family or friends who work at Wal-Mart nor do I have money invested in Wal-Mart (although maybe I should look into that considering how much I have spent there recently).  I’m just an Organized Mom trying to help other parents save a buck or two during the second busiest shopping season of the year, back-to-school.  Before you know it retailers will come up with a mascot for this one too.  I nominate the six-sided red pencil.  🙂

About the author


Sue is a former Professional Organizer who left the field to pursue being The Mom. She is currently employed by her four children, Tyler (8), Bradley (6), Katelyn (4) and Breanna (2.5). As The Mom, Sue's days are filled with dirty diapers, loud kids, lots of messes and tons of fun adventures. She's paid daily in Hugs and Kisses and occasionally receives bonuses paid out in Thank Yous. Sue is the luckiest woman alive since she is married to the ever so handsome, Super Man (a.k.a. Corey). In her spare time Sue likes to sleep, eat doughnuts and sleep some more. Check out more posts from Sue at Tried and True Mommy


  • It’s great to hear that people do shop around for office and school supplies as there really are huge savings to be made by the savvy shopper who is willing to do some research prior to buying. The internet is great for comparison shopping and as well as looking at the big name stores mentioned above it’s always worth looking at smaller independent retailers as they can also offer good prices and perhaps a few products or brands that the big boys might not do.

  • […] If you’re still getting organized for back-to-school, I found plenty of good tips to make the task easier. First, Sue Werle offers some help for tackling the shopping list. Save all those newspaper circulars, make your shopping list and compare prices, she suggests. Unless the stores are very close by, multiple trips will probably end up costing money, so stick with the one store that saves you the most. But don’t throw out those circulars! Take them with you and ask for a price match, Werle says. (Organized Mom) […]

  • We live in the country about 20-40 minutes away from all the selection of stores. Here we have Walmart and Shopko. While they do have decent prices, it is nice that my husband goes to school in the city so he will pick up the great deals on his way home. Like 500 pack sheets of printer paper for $2. And crayons for .01.

    But I agree that sometimes it is easier and cheaper to just pay a little more somewhere and spend less on gas money driving all over town.

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