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Gearing up for going back to school can be stressful and incredibly time-consuming. Whether you’re a student about to go off to college for the first time, or a parent helping a student prep, it’s important to do some research before spending a huge amount of money you otherwise didn’t have to.
Did you know different retailers secretly have the best deals in a specific category?
For instance, Walmart offers better deals on basics like bedding and supplies, but Target has all the best sales on decor to make a dorm room feel like home. With so many back-to-school promotions going on, it’s important to compare costs.
Like the different sales, there are different approaches needed at each major back-to-school retailer, including Walmart, Target, Bed Bath & Beyond and Amazon. We did the legwork and put together helpful tips and tricks so you get the most bang for your buck at all the major retailers.
Below, the ultimate shopping strategy for all your back-to-school needs.
Walmart is the place to buy what are usually the most expensive supplies at their lowest prices.
Right now, a graphing calculator required in most college math or science courses that is hardly ever cheaper than $100 is $88. Five Star 5-subject Notebooks are more than 60 percent off, down to just $5 (originally $13). One of these could be used to take notes in every course since the dividers keep sections organized. We recommend stocking up on a few notebooks because repurchasing new ones throughout the school year can get pricey.
If you need larger items but don’t want to store them in the garage for the weeks leading up to move-in day, Walmart offers an order and hold option, where you can enter a school’s name, find the Walmart closest to it, and order items to be picked up right there at a time most convenient. This service alone is worth shopping exclusively at the retailer.
If you don’t have a ton of wiggle room to spend on decor, consider matching appliance colors to each other. If your Keurig (this one is on sale for $60, and it’s usually $90) matches your mugs and bowls, the room will feel more purposeful.
FYI: If you’re planning on buying an appliance like a microwave, mini-fridge or toaster oven, check your dorm guidelines to ensure it meets power requirements.
Target also offers shoppers an organized interactive checklist online to help you decide between different items and make sure you have everything covered.
The best part about shopping through Bed Bath and Beyond isn’t sale prices — its all the extra perks!
For example, they have a feature online (and at your local store) where you can search the college you or your student is going to, and download a residence information sheet that includes the details on the bedding you’ll need, storage items you can bring, and what’s included in the dorm.
You can also use a free pack -and -hold service, where you buy the items ahead of time, then pick them up at a location closest to your school. And, if you’re feeling nervous about getting everything you need, they even have their own checklist full of recommendations.
For those spending a small fortune at Bed Bath and Beyond, there’s a membership program ($29 a year) that gets you 20 percent off an entire purchase whenever you shop. With a big college haul, you could probably get your money’s worth pretty fast.
With two-day shipping for Prime members, Amazon is an excellent destination for last-minute shopping.
More likely than not, you’ll forget something you really need on move-in day. If it’s not an urgent mishap or if you simply want to stock up on toilet paper, Prime is a great option because your purchase will go straight to your dorm.
For those who have family or friends wanting to help out with some of the back-to-school costs, Amazon has online registries for any occasion. Create a quick-and-easy list of all the supplies you need and share the link with those who want to help.
You can also find checklist recommendations based on a student’s grade level that include different brands so you can easily compare prices and view all your options.
Shoppers can even check things off their list thanks to an interactive module (found on the top left of the page) that shows you how close you are to completing all your back-to-school shopping.
Right now, you can save up to 20 percent on supplies you’ll need, from cleaning wipes to backpacks, supplies and more.
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