CONSUMER REPORTS - It's that time of year again, when thoughts turn from swimming and sunscreen to school supplies. It also means big sales on everything back-to-school. Consumer Reports ShopSmart magazine has done some homework, sizing up everyday prices to help you find the best bargains.
ShopSmart magazine sent secret shoppers to check prices at Office Depot, Staples, Target, and Walmart. And the bargains weren't always where you'd expect. You might think an office-supply store is the best place to go, but often it wasn't. In fact, Staples and Office Depot tied for the highest prices on most items.
Store-brand, two-pocket folders at Staples cost a $1.01, compared with Walmart's 48 cents.
How about notebooks? Mead, Five-Star, one-subject notebooks at Staples go for $6.02, but Walmart has them for $2.76.
And notebook paper? Norcom brand packages of 150 sheets at Office Depot were $3.01. At Walmart, you'll pay just 82 cents.
In fact, Walmart had the least-expensive prices on the most items-and in many cases, Target was right behind them.
ShopSmart says as a general rule look for store brands. They can save you almost 75 percent. ShopSmart also suggests asking for a price match if you see a better deal somewhere else. Office Depot, Staples, Target, and Walmart all have price-matching policies. Just bring an ad to the store from your local paper, or call it up on your smart phone to get the better price.
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(Copyright © 2013 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. All Rights Reserved.)