Back To School Shopping

Posted on: August 18th, 2010 by

Child's Education - Financial Planning - Rockville, MDBack-to-school shopping usually consists of running out at the last minute and going to one store to try to get everything.  If you do a little planning and put in a little extra effort, you will find yourself saving quite a bit.  In other words, it pays to shop around.

Families surveyed by The National Retail Federation expect to spend an average of $96 per child on school supplies, and more than $600 when clothing, shoes and electronics are included.  These numbers, however, do not include the additional items many schools are adding to their back to school lists this year such as dry erase markers, toilet paper, tissues, and anti-bacterial wipes.  School budget cuts have left the burden of the extras up to the parents.  This is estimated to drive the estimated $96 per child up to about $104 per child.

A few morning show segments this week have featured the cost comparisons of 20 items typically found on a school supply list, which inspired me to look into costs and may prove to be quite helpful.  Comparing apples to apples in terms of quality, I priced major brand names: Crayola crayons, markers and colored pencils; Five Star notebooks, Avery Binders; Pilot G2 gel pens; Oxford folders; Texas Instruments TI-30 calculator.  For more generic items such as rulers, protractors, index cards and loose leaf paper, the lowest price was focused on.  Note: the items chosen were plain solid colors on everything — no patterns or designs.

The results were pretty dramatic:  The same 20 items on my list cost $27.20 at an independent discount store, and three times as much, $83.44, at CVS.  Big-box stores Target and Wal-Mart came in at $31.64 and $36.70, and Staples charged $66.72.

Both the independent and chain dollar stores (Family Dollar, Dollar General and Dollar Tree) have grown aggressively in the last decade, adding thousands of stores nationwide between 2001 and mid-2009, according to a study by The Nielsen Company.  “There’s no question that the dollar stores are getting more and more shoppers every day,” says Britt Beemer, CEO of America’s Research Group.  “When they added more food products to the stores, they really established value with consumers.  They sell bread for $1 a loaf, and at the grocery store it’s $1.89 or $2.59.  The dollar stores make a stronger value proposition as they added grocery, because people know the value of things they buy most often.  Because they attract so many shoppers every week, manufacturers can no longer ignore the channel.”

For school supplies, you should definitely visit dollar stores first and then wait as far until the end of the season as you can for other stores so the items will be marked down as much as possible.  The other nice advantage to dollar stores is that if you have a child like I was that like the colorful patterns and designs, you can generally find those there as well and for only $1.



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