July 24, 2013 -- intro: To the dismay of kids across the country and with excited anticipation by parents, back-to-school shopping is around the corner. Though stores may lure in shoppers with basic school needs, you may pay a lot more for certain items if you don't shop around.
ShopSmart, a magazine from Consumer Reports, found that out of four national retailers, Walmart emerged as the lowest-price winner in basic back-to-school shopping, with Target following closely behind it.
The magazine went on the hunt for 11 items on a shopping list including glue sticks, notebooks, printer paper, sharpies, pens and pencils. The experiment is described in ShopSmart's September issue.
The magazine found Walmart had the lowest prices for six of the items, including a Elmer's Washable Disappearing Putple Glue Stick (3-pack) for $2.94. At Staples, the same product is $5.99. That glue was one of seven products with the biggest difference in price at stores. Another big difference in price was for Norcom Notebook Paper. At Walmart it cost 82 cents for 150 sheets, college-ruled. At Office Depot, it cost $3.01 -- a 73 percent difference between the two stores.
ShopSmart found that Walmart and Target had "much better prices overall" than office-supply stores like Staples and Office Depot, which is merging with Office Max.
Though many retailers have already begun advertising for back-to-school items, personal finance website NerdWallet says many deals improve in August. NerdWallet studied 500 back to school items from 2012 across 8 national retailers like Target, Walmart, Office Depot and Staples and found 78 percent of the items selling in July sold at the exact same price in August, 12 percent of items dropped in price in August, and only 10 percent of items rose in price.
Here are five tricks from ShopSmart to save money no matter where you shop.
quicklist: title: Look for store-brand supplies. text: They're not easy to find (Walmart had almost none), but shoppers who do can save as much as 74 percent compared to name-brand supplies, ShopSmart said.
quicklist: title: Check out weekly sales circulars the first of the month for the best deals. text: Websites such as Spoofee.com and SundaySaver.com link shoppers to local ads for dozens of stores.
quicklist: title: Download the Weekly Ads & Sales app. text: This mobile app, free for Apple devices, allows users to view the latest ad pages.
quicklist: title: Look for sales online. text: The magazine found online prices for OfficeDepot, Staples, Target and Walmart "closely matched" prices advertised in stores. Beware of extra shipping costs however.
quicklist: title: Ask for a price match. text: Shoppers who find a better deal elsewhere can show their phone or a paper ad at checkout at stores with price-matching policies.