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It Pays To Compare While Shopping For School Supplies

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Stephanie Lucero
Stephanie is an Emmy Award winning veteran reporter for CBS 11 N...
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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Shopping for school supplies is an annual event for students and parents. The trip can be thrilling for the kids picking out what items they want to for the year. “I like school supplies because it’s fun to work with,” said student Julianna Bevins, “and I like school because it helps you learn.”

But school supply shopping can also be a real drain on the wallet. With the tax holiday just around the corner (August 19-21), and each district’s supply lists already released, it can definitely pay to compare prices.

CBS 11 News looked at the supply list for students attending fifth grade in the Richardson Independent School District, and purchased items at two retailers located relatively close to each other. The items included: eight folders with brads and pockets, notebooks, facial tissue, pencils, pens and scissors – 15 items total, with many required in multiples.

Of course, part of the hassle is finding the right item, in the right size, or the right color, in the correct quantity. And not all stores carry the same items. “A lot of stores don’t carry everything you need,” said mother Kim Bevins, “so you’ve got to go somewhere else and buy the supplies, like we did.”

At the Walmart store on Forest Lane in northeast Dallas, there were no folders made with paper – plastic only. And it was difficult to find spiral notebooks with 100 sheets of paper, so extra notebooks had to be purchased.

Meanwhile, at the the OfficeMax store on Central Expressway in northeast Dallas, it was easy to find paper folders and notebooks of the correct size. But packages of index cards and pencils were more expensive, and included more than necessary.

The supply list was able to be completed at both locations, but not necessarily in the size or quantity that the school district requested. At the checkout counter, Walmart charged $32.99 without tax. OfficeMax was almost three times more expensive at $94.88.

Most public schools offer the option of buying prepaid packages of the necessary school supplies for about $40. Kids do not get to pick out their favorite designs and styles, but it is very convenient – something that many parents say is worth any added expense.

“It’s only our second year to do school supplies, because we home schooled,” explained mother Carissa Brown. “It was a big difference to go into the school system. And the list is kind of daunting. So, you look for the least expensive, absolutely.”

To help cut down on the school supply costs, take stock of your desk drawers and closets before heading to the store. Many families might have the supplies at home already. Also, use an online budget tool to help make sure that you are not spending more than you can afford. And finally, be sure to separate a child’s wants and needs. For instance, a second grader probably does not need an iPad.

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