Parents spend on average more than $600 on back-to-school supplies and apparel, according to the National Retail Federation. But in recent years, they have become more savings-conscious. More than 80 percent of people with school-aged children said in a recent survey that the economy will impact their spending plans. Although that's down from 86 percent last year, it's still an unusually high level of people preoccupied with cost outlays for their elementary, junior high, high school or college-age children.
The back-to-school sales are a great opportunity to stock up for less. Each year around this time, I purchase most of the office and school supplies my family needs for the next year.
Last week, I stopped by Staples, which kicked off its back-to-school shopping season with crayons, school glue and ballpoint pens for one penny with any $5 purchase, and pencil boxes and mechanical pencils for only 25 cents. The office-supply chain plans on offering similar deals weekly in coming weeks.
If you buy a lot of supplies this time of year, Staples also is offering for $10 a Back to School Savings card that provides a 15 percent discount on supplies the entire season.
The pass also provides a discount on shipping and mailing supplies, reams of paper, cleaning supplies, CDs, DVDs and other items. For more information, go to Staples.com/BacktoSchool.
Office-supply providers OfficeMax and Office Depot also plan to have deals for shoppers. Each week in the Sunday newspaper, the retailers will unveil their bargains.
Other retailers that will offer highly discounted school supplies include Walmart, Target and Shopko. Dollar stores also are worth a visit. Many offer an array of items.
If you're a teacher, don't forget to ask about special programs that apply to you. In August, OfficeMax will offer Teacher Appreciation events, with added discounts on in-store purchases, even on sale items. For more information, go to bit.ly/OyiJu4.
Office Depot has a Star Teacher program, which provides discounts on merchandise and copy and print services, as well as rebates on a variety of purchases. For more information, go to Mystarteacher.com.
And whether you're a teacher or parent, don't forget that Target and Walmart stores generally price-match sale items, although back-to-school loss leaders items priced below cost to attract shoppers make price-matching a bit trickier.
In the past, I've found that some Targets and Walmarts can be reticent to match items priced as little as 1 cent to 5 cents each. They also can be reluctant to price-match items that require a specific spending threshold, such as 1 cent boxes of crayons that require a $5 minimum purchase. But it never hurts to ask, as individual stores have some leeway on price-matching.
When price-matching, I always visit the customer service desk before I go to check out and make sure they'll honor back-to-school loss leaders.
Not familiar with price-matching? For Walmart's policy, to Walmartstores.com/10563.aspx. Target's policy can be found at bit.ly/Lg2IvW.
Lesley Mitchell writes One Cheap Chick in daily blog form at blogs.sltrib.com/cheap.