ShopSmart: Six Steps to Big Back-to-School Savings

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Plus, online sites that offer great deals on school and office supplies

It seems as if summer has just started, yet back-to-school sales are already underway. Because the cost of returning to the classroom can add up fast─from school supplies, dorm essentials and clothing─ShopSmart magazine, from the publisher of Consumer Reports, has identified six steps to help shoppers achieve maximum savings on their back-to-school needs. The September 2012 issue also names some of the best sites to shop for great deals on office and school supplies.

Six Steps to Maximum Savings on School Supplies

1.    Compare store circulars. Sites such as and make it easy. At Spoofee, click on the Weekly Ad tab and print out deals. To do a money-saving one-stop shop, take the ads to a store that price matches, such as Walmart or Staples.
2.    Find out about tax-free shopping days in August. Many states offer them. Head to and click on “State Sales Tax Holidays-2012” to see whether your state participates, and do all of your shopping then.
3.    Before you buy school clothes, subscribe to the e-mail newsletters of all of your child’s favorite stores. Teen-girl haven Delia routinely sends e-mail messages with coupons, contents, and sale alerts. Sign up at store websites.
4.    Shop Back to School Saturday on August 11. Teen Vogue created the event, with two dozen advertisers—including Aeropostale, Express, H&M, Staples and more—offering deals on clothes and other goodies. Find the full list at
5.    Look for ways to get even more back for your money. Office Depot’s 5% Back to Schools Program gives the school a store credit to buy supplies.
6.    Shop online. Some of the best deals on school and office supplies are available from the comfort of your home. Check out ShopSmart’s list of sites to see for online bargains on academic essentials.

Sites to See for Office and School Supply Deals

    Shoppers who want to skip the stores for back-to-school items can score great deals online. Shopsmart has identified sites that offer value, selection and in some cases generous return policies─and they’ve passed tests for privacy, contact-info disclosure and service.

  •     Guaranteed Deals: will match the price and refund you 10 percent of the difference if you find items cheaper elsewhere.
  •     Bulk Supplies: is a great site to stock up on filler paper, pencils and pens. Shoppers will save even more by pooling resources with other parents to earn bulk discounts. Use the price-match policy to save even more. Shopsmart found eight-packs of Crayola crayons for $0.85 a box if you purchase six or more, ($0.95 a box for fewer), compared with $2.09 a box at
  •     One-Stop Shopping: accepts official supply lists from schools or parent organizations─this enables parents to order a year’s worth of supplies with just a few clicks. Or parents can buy an Essentials kit that contains commonly requested items for your child’s grade level. The $22.07 elementary kit has folders, scissors, and more.

About Consumer Reports:
Consumer Reports is the world’s largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 8 million subscribers to its magazine, website, and other publications. Its advocacy division, Consumers Union, works for health reform, food and product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.

About ShopSmart magazine:
Launched in Fall 2006 by Consumer Reports, ShopSmart draws upon the publication’s celebrated tradition of accepting no advertisements and providing unbiased product reviews. ShopSmart features product reviews, shopping tips on how to get the most out of products and “best of the best” lists. It’s ideal for busy shoppers who place a premium on time. ShopSmart has a newsstand price of $5.99 and is available nationwide at major retailers including Barnes & Noble, Wal-Mart, Kroger, Safeway and Publix. ShopSmart is available by subscription at

ShopSmart is now available 10 times a year. Subscribe at

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Melissa Valentino
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