Back to school shopping comparison

The first day of school is just around the corner, and with it comes the rush to stock up on anything and everything your kid needs for the year ahead, including backpacks, gym gear and the all-important first day of school outfit – all of which can come with a hefty price tag. The cost of school supplies alone can present a burden for parents. Glue sticks, rulers, erasers, pencil sharpeners – the total cost of restocking your kids pencil case quickly adds up. So where should you go for the best prices on stationery? We compared the cost of an average eighth grade school supply list at three major retailers to find out.

What’s on the list?

We based Finder’s eighth grade back to school supply list on actual lists from 10 schools around the country. We didn’t include items like lunch boxes, backpacks or gym gear, as the prices for these products tended to vary greatly depending on style and personal preference.

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How did the stores compare?

Staples and Walmart Canada virtually tied, both coming in at roughly $160.

While Staples was slightly cheaper at $159, the difference isn’t really big enough to declare a clear winner. The analysis could have easily ended with a different result had we chosen a different pencil case or brand of pens. Walmart Canada wasn’t far behind, with the cost for all school supplies adding up to $161.

While some people might think online shopping is the way to go, Amazon was actually a lot more expensive than its brick-and-mortar counterparts. The total shop for a school supply list at Amazon came in at $218 – almost $60 more expensive than a shop for similar items at Staples.

However, it’s worth noting where items were on sale we used the original listed price. Many of the products at Amazon were on sale, which means the cost might not have been as high had we used the sale item price.

We also found that it was hard to avoid buying in bulk on Amazon, and where the items were for individual sale, they were usually a lot more expensive. Parents with more than one kid looking to buy multiples of the same item might find that Amazon is a better option.

Is it worth shopping around?

For budget shoppers looking to get the absolute cheapest stationery haul, it might be worth shopping around for the cheapest products at each store. Our research shows that if shoppers are willing to visit different stores for different items, they can expect to pay just $124.59 for the whole school supply list – a saving of roughly $34.

Back in the day, this strategy might have seemed like a lot of effort (and not worth the saving when accounting for fuel costs), but with Internet shopping, it could work out cheaper and not be too much of an inconvenience. However, this does depend on things like the cost of shipping and whether you’re able to easily make returns on your purchases.

Infographic back to school supplies

Want your loonie to go even further?

Shoppers looking to save even more on their stationery purchases might be able to take advantage of these deals from Staples, Walmart Canada and Amazon. Deals and sale prices weren’t included in our analysis as they tend to change frequently and might not be available at the time of purchase.

Methodology

We compared the cost of the average eighth grade school supply list at three major retailers: Walmart Canada, Staples and Amazon. Prices were taken from the stores websites on July 31, 2019. Where prices were on sale, we used the original listed price. Where there were multiple products available at the same retailer for different price points, we chose the mid-priced item.

We based our stationery list on back to school lists from 10 public schools around the country in Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Ontario.

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