Back-to-school cheat sheet: Where to get the lowest prices on school supplies this year

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When you’re busy with work, family and all the other random stuff life throws at you (wait, all the kids need new physicals!?), there’s no time left to compare prices at all the stores in your area for school supplies.

Luckily, the Passionate Penny Pincher blog has got your back.

Laurie Hise, the brains behind the blog, created an amazing cheat sheet that compares school supply prices at Walmart, Target, Staples and Office Depot.

Of course, the prices will vary depending on your location (and depending on weekly sales!), but this cheat sheet will give you a general overview of where you can find the lowest prices. Here are some of the deals, but head over to Passionate Penny Pincher for the full printable cheat sheet.

A few takeaways:

1. Walmart is the king of school supply savings

This should not come as a surprise, but Walmart beat the other stores in nearly every category.

Let’s take a pack of 10 Crayola washable markers for instance. Walmart’s price was $2.77, while Target’s price was $3.99. At Staples you’d pay $3 and at Office Depot, you’d pay $5.

Getty Images | Joe Raedle

2. But don’t forget store brands

Target, Staples and Office Depot have in-house store-brand items that are significantly cheaper than brand-name items, so keep an eye out for those when you shop.

The cheat sheet focused mostly on well-known school supply brands, such as Crayola and Elmers, which skewed the results just a bit.

Getty Images | Tim Boyle

3. Don’t forget Amazon

Ah yes, Amazon. How could we forget you? The cheat sheet also doesn’t cover Amazon, so you might want to do a little poking around there before you commit to visiting one of the stores on the list.

Plus, time is money, so if you don’t have to leave your house to buy school supplies (although your kids might protest!), Amazon can help with that too. Got Amazon Prime? Even better. That free two-day shipping is a lifesaver.

Getty Images | Justin Sullivan

Head over to to download the full cheat sheet today. All you have to do is sign up for the blog’s email list. Then you’ll receive a link in your inbox that take you to the cheat sheet!

Check Your State’s Back-to-School Tax Policy

Did you know that some states offer a “tax-free” period right before school starts to help parents save a little extra cash?

Find out if your state offers a tax amnesty period (often a weekend or a week).

Additionally, check to see what items qualify for the tax exemption, and if there’s a limit on how much you can spend tax-free.

Don’t assume your state will give you a tax break this year just because it’s happened in the past. Georgia, for example, cancelled its back-to-school tax-free period for 2017 because of budget concerns.

RELATED: You can grab back-to-school basics for cheap at JCPenney’s Black Friday in July sale

Here’s a list of states offering back-to-school tax-free periods this year:


July 21-23


Aug. 5-6


Aug. 20-26


Aug. 4-6


Aug. 4-5


Aug. 4-5


Aug. 13-19


July 28-29


Aug. 4-6

New Mexico

Aug. 4-6


Aug. 4-6


Aug. 4-6

South Carolina

Aug. 4-6


July 28-30


Aug. 11-13


Aug. 4-6

Those lucky ducks who live in Alaska, Delaware, Montana, Oregon or New Hampshire don’t pay state sales tax year-round anyway (but they might still have local and county sales taxes).

You might also be able to take advantage of tax-free holidays offered at other times during the year. So if you miss the back-to-school deals, you may be able to save later in the year.

Here are some other tips for successful back-to-school shopping:

1. Know What’s Hot

Before you buy that cute lunchbox or awesome backpack, check with your kids to find out if they “have to have!” a particular cool item that all the other kids will be sporting.

Few things are more painful for a child than to walk into class wearing last year’s fashion or carrying a geeky item mom thought was awesome.

Talk to your friends with children, as well, to get the latest scoop on what’s hot and what’s not.

2. Buy Some Items After School Starts

Once school starts, retailers start to dump unsold back-to-school inventory at low prices.

You don’t need to buy your child’s entire wardrobe before the first day of school.

Buy enough items to start her out, and then reap the benefits of waiting another week or two to fill her closet.

RELATED: Here’s how you can get school supplies for one cent (yes, really!)

3. Check Grocery Store Gift Cards

Some grocery store chains with gas programs sell gift cards that give you double or quadruple gas points, depending on when you buy them.

If you need to shop at a particular store anyway, you might as well make it worth your while and save a little money on gas in the meantime.

About the Author

Sarah Kuta

Sarah Kuta is an award-winning writer and editor based in Colorado. She writes regularly about how to find deals, save money and find side gigs. Reach her at Learn More.