Hunting for school supplies


(istock)
Katherine Boyle
Reporter August 3, 2012

If you’re a parent, you’ve probably had a dreaded list of your child’s school supplies hanging on your refrigerator for weeks. Finding that brand-name two-inch binder your child needs for science class is stressful, tiring and, yes, annoying. It’s even more maddening when the items you need aren’t on sale.

But sales complicate things, too. You want to drive to Staples to get a box of free pencils. You want to go to CVS for $3 back on $15 of select school supplies. But your better instincts dictate that heading to two or three stores will not only drive you insane, it will also waste a lot of gas.

Katherine Boyle reports on arts, museums and culture for the Style section.

We took a look at circulars and Web sites to compare the prices of school supplies at Staples, CVS and Target. Our highly unscientific comparison of sales taught us a few things about school-supply shopping.

1. Sales change often, so scan circulars.

2. Check out prices online before buying.

3. It might seem like you’re saving a lot, but after coupons and promotions, the sales are pretty similar. CVS is great for large families needing multiples. Staples is good for the early bird. Target offers convenient online shopping. Still, there are deals worth driving for, so get there early before the free supplies disappear.

Staples shopping basket

Composition notebook, $1

Staples composition notebook. Reg. $2.99. Online price.

One-subject notebook, $2

Staples Accel one-subject notebook, 100 sheets. Circular price.

Avery heavy-duty one-inch binders, $6

Regular $8.49. Circular price.

Mead Five Star five-subject notebook, $9.49

81 / 2-by-11-inch pages. Online price.

Glue sticks, $1

Avery glue sticks, permanent and disappearing, three-pack. Reg. $2.49.
Circular price.

Mechanical pencils, $0

Zebra No. 2 mechanical pencils, 10-pack.
Free promotion. Circular price.

Sharpie markers, $3

Sharpie Twin Tip permanent markers,
four-pack. Reg. $7.29. Circular price.

Sharpie highlighters, 50 cents

Sharpie Accent tank highlighters, five-pack. Reg. $4. Circular price.

TOTAL:

$22.99

Note: Many of the Staples items are on sale while supplies last. For free (or virtually free) promotions, such as mechanical pencils and Sharpie highlighters, get to a store when the sale starts.

CVS shopping basket

Composition notebook, $2.55

CVS composition notebook. Reg. $3.19. Online price.

One-subject notebook, $3.03

CVS one-subject notebook, 100 sheets.

Online price.

Avery heavy-duty one-inch binders, $5.99

Regular $7.49. Circular price.

Mead Five Star five-subject notebook, $9.19
81 / 2-by-11-inch pages. Online price.

Glue sticks, $1.83

Caliber glue sticks, three-pack. Reg. $2.49. Online price.

Mechanical pencils, $2.39
CVS mechanical pencils, 10-pack.

Sharpie markers, $2.95

Sharpie permanent markers, three-pack. Online price.

Sharpie highlighters, $2.63

Sharpie Accent tank highlighters, five-pack. Reg. $3.29 Online price.

TOTAL:

$30.56

Note: CVS has a free-shipping promotion (spend more than $49 and receive free shipping on packages 10 pounds or less.) Also, many of these items are buy one, get one half-off, or $3 off $15 spent on certain brands. If you’re shopping for two children, you’ll save here.

Target shopping basket

Composition notebook, $1

Mead composition notebook. Online price and in circular.

One-subject notebook, $1.79

One-subject notebook, 100 sheets.
Off-brand. Online price.

Heavy-duty one-inch binders, $3.97

Heavy-duty binders not available online. Prices vary by store. Off-brand.

Mead Five Star five-subject notebook, $10

Prices vary by store. Average price. Not available online.

Glue sticks, 99 cents

Elmers school glue sticks, six-pack. Circular price.

Mechanical pencils, 99 cents

Bic mechanical pencils, eight-pack. Circular price.

Sharpie markers, $10.34

Sharpie Twin Tip permanent markers, four-pack. Online price.

Sharpie highlighters, $4.34

Sharpie tank highlighters, eight-pack.
Online price.

TOTAL:

$33.42

Note: Although shipping is free if you purchase more than $50 worth of goods, the online selection pales in comparison to store offerings. Prices vary, so follow sales and circulars.

TTHE BOTTOM LINE Schools are particular about the types of items they require. Check circulars and go online before you buy. Rushing around to different stores might cost you more than you’ll actually save, but plan it right and you can score some bargains.

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