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saving on school supplies

While I don't necessarily dislike back-to-school supply shopping, I will admit that it gets just a little more challenging each year. Pulling together supply lists for 5 kids into one easy-to-read master list, dragging them all to the store with me, and then hoping to find all of the items we need in stock can be just *slightly* stressful.

Leave it to Walmart to come up with a better solution, their new Classrooms by Walmart. Classrooms by Walmart is a tool that lets teachers and parents team up to create school supply lists that are specific to each classroom, making sure that children get everything they need for the school year at Walmart's everyday low prices. And teachers can add items that they need for the classroom, creating what is basically a wishlist that parents can help to fulfill.

Using Classrooms by Walmart is easy. Just search for your school and classroom, and add your list to your cart. Choose to ship the item to your home, your child's school, or opt to pick it up at your local store. That's it -- no crowds, no lines, no arguing with your kids while strangers look on. And your entire purchase is backed by Walmart's Low Price Guarantee!

Unfortunately, my kids' schools aren't listed on the site yet. However, Walmart prepared for this scenario by creating generic supply lists that you can shop from. I found that the generic lists matched pretty closely with what our schools sent home at the end of last school year, and so I was able to still shop online.

I do have high hopes that our schools will buy into this program next year because it would be incredibly convenient to just login and add everything to my shopping cart with one click! And all of the supplies can be shipped directly to your home for FREE with Home Free.

Would you prefer to shop around in stores or beat the crowds by shopping online?

Disclosure: I am a participant in the Walmart Moms program. Walmart has provided me with compensation for the time and effort spent creating this post. However, my participation in this program is voluntary and my opinions are my own -- always have been, always will be.


School Supplies: Walmart vs. Target Head To Head

by Tara Kuczykowski on August 27, 2010 · 17 comments

School Supplies Pencils Erasers August 07, 20103
Photo by Steven Depolo

We're down to the wire on Back To School shopping, and for many of us, kids have either already started or will be starting next week. The National Retail Foundation estimates that the average family will spend $96 on school supplies, which is nearly 10 percent more than last year. Is it too late to score a good deal, or are there still deals to be found if you know where to look?

I headed out to my local Walmart last week with ABC 6 On Your Side to see what we could find out. You can check out that segment here.

After leaving Walmart, I headed over to Target to do a price-for-price comparison. To be completely fair, I didn't use any price matching or coupons, and I only compared like items of the same brand and size. I have to say the results kind of surprised me:

As you can see, Walmart and Target came out dead even. I completely expected Walmart to top Target with their everyday low prices, but then again, I live in a very competitive market.

Of course, if you've been a savvy shopper and stocking up on the loss leaders since the deals started in late June/early July, you'll have picked up the same list for a fraction of what you'd spend right now. But in all cases, we've ended up far below the retail average.

What are some tips for saving on last-minute Back To School supplies?

  • Make a list -- If you create a list and stick to it, you're going to ensure that you get everything you need in one trip. This is especially helpful if you have several students. Combine all of their lists into one master list, and you'll save yourself a huge headache.
  • Take inventory -- I know my kids came home with bags of unused glue sticks, pencils, erasers, scissors, etc. at the end of last year. Don't let these items go to wast. Take them into consideration when making your list for this year. Likely you'll find many of these items listed once again.
  • Do your homework -- Gather up those current sales ads and see what the prices are like this week so you can plan your trip accordingly.
  • Save on gas -- Utilize price matching so you're not running all over town. Carry all of your ads into a store and have that store meet the advertised prices. Walmart and Target both offer this service, but in my opinion Walmart has the advantage here because they will do it right at the register without the additional hassle of lugging your items to the customer service desk.
  • Don't forget your coupons -- More and more schools are asking parents to supply classroom items outside the traditional school supplies. Items on our list include things like hand sanitizer, Clorox Wipes, Kleenex, and Ziploc Bags. You'll find coupons available for all of these items in the Deal Seeking Mom Coupon Database.

So where would I choose to shop given the fact that Walmart and Target were evenly matched in this case? For me it comes down to ease of use.

As you can see in the news segment, my Walmart store was well organized with wide aisles and everything located where I could quickly and easily get in and out. Target, on the other hand, looked like a war zone. I spent a good 30 minutes trying to find all of the necessary items on my list, and several items were out of stock, which left me heading back to Walmart to finish up my supply list.

So what store is your first choice for purchasing school supplies? If you've already shopped, did you come in above or below the national average of $96?

I am a participant in the Walmart Moms program. Walmart has provided me with compensation to perform the above shopping comparison. Participation in this program is voluntary. All opinions are my own, always have been, always will be.