On Your Side compares back-to-school costs at major retailers versus online

When buying school supplies, On Your Side explains why you should avoid going online.
Updated: Aug. 4, 2022 at 5:45 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- In-store versus online. On Your Side wanted to know where parents would get a better deal.

To find out, Gary Harper and Susan Campbell used a third-grade school supply list from a class in Tempe. The list has 12 must-have items, like notebooks, pencils, Post-Its, and of course, crayons and scissors. The two shopped for the list at four stores, including Walmart, Target, Staples and Walgreens. The cost was within a few bucks across the board.

Then they loaded up their Amazon cart to do even more comparison shopping. “It’s a little bit harder this year. You have to dig, and you have to hunt a little bit, but there are definitely deals out there,” Alicia Markham told On Your Side. She tracks sales on her website DealsInAZ.com. Markham says you will see plenty of deep discounts on typical school supplies like crayons and folders.

At Walmart, they were only 15 cents each. But you’ll feel the pinch, especially with back-to-school clothes. The latest consumer price index shows apparel is up more than 5% compared to last year. “When you’re trying to clothe your kids, they’re growing so fast, that can be really challenging for a parent,” Markham said.

The National Retail Federation says the pressure from inflation is changing how shoppers tackle back-to-school shopping. The numbers show that 43% of people say they’re doing more comparative shopping online. In addition, 42% say they’re shopping for sales more often. And 35% say they’re buying more generic products.

“If you have open time and you have stores that are right next to each other, it might make sense to go in and get the things that are on sale at each store,” said Markham. It could save you big time.

Remember our shopping trips for that 3rd-grade list? In the stores, we spent about $30. But things were actually a lot more on Amazon. In fact, it costs us double that amount at more than $60 to complete the same list.

It’s not a perfect comparison because the quantities are different. But here’s a good example. At Walmart and Staples, a one-subject notebook was only 35 cents. However, on Amazon, a three-pack was on sale for a whopping $7.09.