Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY — Summer is coming to a close, which means it's time to get students ready for the new school year.
Alas, getting Utah's children prepared for school inevitably means parents opening their wallets, and the back-to-school shopping can really add up.
In fact, the National Retail Federation predicts parents will set a record for back-to-school spending this year at $37.1 billion. Families with children in elementary through high school plan to spend $849, though that includes things like clothes, shoes and electronics. So, the KSL Investigators went shopping to see how we can save families some money on the classroom basics.
JOIN US: @KSLInvestigates went Back-To-School shopping see where we saved (and where we did not). Come cheat off our homework! I'll have a LIVE report on @KSL5TV at 6:30AM with @DanSpindleKSL and @TamaraVaifanua. pic.twitter.com/Msz0DFaEYY— Matt Gephardt KSL (@KslMatt) August 11, 2021
We shopped at big box stores Walmart and Target, and we strolled down the aisles in a neighborhood grocery store, Smith's. We also hit a place that advertises frugalness in their name: Dollar General.
We had one rule: get everything on our list spending as little as possible.
Now everything we got was pretty basic but no question: The prices differences were vast.
Take binders for instance: Our list called for three. We paid $3 at Walmart, $7.50 at Dollar General and $10.50 at both Target and Smith's. That's a 350% difference from cheapest to most expensive.
Another essential, backpacks, had some wide-ranging costs. At Walmart and Dollar General, we paid $5 for the cheapest. Smith's was $10 and we spent $12 at Target.
Water bottles also had some fluid costs: $1 at Walmart, $5 at Dollar General, $8 at Target and $10 at Smith's. We paid 10 times more at Smith's for a water bottle than we did at Walmart.
Scientific calculators' costs were in the same ballpark, about $10. But uh-oh — Dollar General does not sell scientific calculators.
At the end of the day, Walmart was the easiest on the credit card: $27.87. But it was not the cheapest by much. It beat Dollar General's $28.15 price tag by just $0.28. But again, no scientific calculator, so you'd have to add about $10 plus a drive to another store to complete the list. The total cost at Smith's was $47.94 and Target proved priciest at $51.02.
So mega-retailer Amazon must have the best deals on school supplies, right? Well, our list priced out at $49 on items available on Amazon Prime for fast and free delivery — our second priciest overall. But Amazon sells a lot of school supplies in bulk, something you could split the cost with other parents.