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Consumer Reports: Bargains on school supplies

July 29, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A new survey shows many American families plan to spend less for school supplies this year compared to last year.

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," Genna said.

"My favorite part about shopping for notebooks is picking through all the colors I can buy," said Justin.

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, 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," Rohlena said.

In fact, Staples and Office Depot tied for the highest prices on most items. Store-brand, two-pocket folders at Staples cost $1.01, 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 them 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," Rohlena said.

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

When you do go shopping for supplies, always ask if the store does price matching to see if you can get a better deal. 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 smartphone to get the better price.

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