Just for your reference, here are some of the best prices on school supplies from previous years. There’s no guarantee that retailers will repeat these deals, but sometimes it’s nice to have a reference.
Update: I’ve put together an updated 2021 School supplies price list you can download and print. I hope it helps you manage the big job of back-to-school shopping!
How much should I pay for school supplies (2021) (printable pdf)
School supplies comparison price list
The table below shows some average prices during the school supply shopping season and what you might want to consider as your “goal” price. The important thing to understand about using this table is that you aren’t going to get the goal prices by shopping all at one place, or even all in the same week.
If there are blank fields, it’s because the prices range too widely or because I don’t know.
|Item||Avg Sale Price||Goal Price|
|2. Paper folder||.15||.05|
|3. Poly folder||.50||.15|
|4. Filler paper||.89||.50|
|5. Spiral notebook||.25||.10|
|6. Composition books||.50||.25|
|7. Index cards||.50||.25|
|8. Glue sticks||.99||.49|
|9. School glue||.50||.25|
|10. Crayola crayons||.50||.33|
|11. Crayola colored pencils||.99||.49|
|12. Crayola markers||.99||.99|
|13. Expo markers||$3.79||$1.99|
|16. Copy/print paper||$3|
|17. Kids scissors||.99||.49|
|18. Pencil box||$1||.89|
|19. Pencil pouch||$1|
|20. Gallon storage bags||$5||$3.50|
|21. Quart storage bags||$5||$3.50|
|22. Paper towels||.99|
|24. Backpacks||$3 to $10|
|25. Athletic shoes||$10 to $25|
|26. Scientific calculator||$8.99|
|27. Graphing calculator||$49|
*A note about athletic shoes: many schools ask that your student brings a pair of gym shoes to school to keep there. That’s what this item is referring to. For gym, shoes should be well-fitting, flexible, and sturdy, but they probably don’t have to be anything special since kids are only wearing them for an hour a day. (Obviously, specialty shoes for various sports are going to cost more, and that’s probably also the case for shoes your child wears all day, every day.)
Cheapest school supplies by unit price
I don’t break everything down by unit price, but different package sizes can sometimes make comparison shopping really challenging (for the math-challenged). So before I head out, I have certain unit prices memorized or written down on my list.
Ticonderoga pencils – less than 10 cents per pencil is good. That’s about half the price of this brand during school supply sale season.
Expo markers – try to get these for less than $1 per marker if you can. Package sizes and types vary so widely on these. There’s usually a “starter kit” on sale every year that includes eraser and cleaning fluid along with 4 or 5 pens. It almost always seems to be priced at $6.88.
Sharpies – here again you want to try to get under $1 a piece for black Sharpies. If you need multiple colors, there are an enormous range of packages sizes and prices to wade through. Try to resist unless you just feel like blowing a little fun money on them. (Am I the only one who always wants to grab the biggest, most colorful Sharpie pack at the office supply store?)
Copy paper – a ream should be about $3, but beware of those “reams” that have fewer than 500 sheets. Quality varies widely but I’m assuming you’re buying copy paper for school kids who don’t need the brightest luxury-weight paper.
Tissues – go for less than $1 per box of 80+ You might be able to get better than that by using a coupon with a rebate app.
Paper towels – same thing: less than $1 per roll is good target price. I don’t mean Target, the store, ha ha. But target, as in something to shoot for.
Disinfecting wipes – go for about 3.5 cents per wipe if you can. I’m basing this on the price at Sam’s Club right now for a 5-pack of Clorox wipes. (Generic might even be cheaper.)
The lowest school supply prices I’ve ever seen
Over the years of tracking school supply prices, I’ve seen some pretty amazing deals. We used to get penny deals every week during the back-to-school shopping season!
Note: I first published the info below ten years ago. (I can’t believe it’s been that long.) Lots has changed – in school supplies and in everything else – since then. But I’m leaving this list here in case it comes in handy for anything.
Office Depot/Max stopped doing penny deals several years ago. Now they aren’t even publishing a weekly ad. (Instead, they say they are concentrating on offering low prices on school supplies all season.) We probably won’t be seeing school supplies as low as one penny, and I’m not even sure how low they’re going to go as far as sales.
OM = Office Max; WG = Walgreens; TR = Target; WM = Walmart; BL = Big Lots; DN = Dillons
filler paper – .01 OM, .25 filler paper WM
legal pads – 3/$1.00WG
1-sub spiral notebook – .05 OM, .15 WM, .15 DN, 10/$1.00 BL
3 x 5 index cards, .44 (100-pk) DN
Pencils & Erasers
#2 pencils – .09 (10-pk) WG, .10 (12-pk) OM, .15 (10-ct) OM, .50 (20-ct.) BL
mechanical pencils – .99 (30-pk)
pencil sharpener – .10 OM, .20 TR
cap erasers -.50 (25-ct) OM
pink erasers – .20 (2-pk) TR
Papermate ballpoint pens – .10 (10-pk) OM
ballpoint pens – .20 (10-pk) OM
BIC pens – .10 (after $1 off 2 coupon) TR, .50 (8-ct) BL
generic crayons – .01 OM
Crayola crayons – .20 (24-pack) OM, .25 WM
generic washable markers – .25 OM
Crayola Washable markers – 2.00 TR & WM
Sharpie mini markers – .10 OM
Sharpie markers – .69 (2-pack) WG, .99 (2-pack) DN
Papermate color highlighters – .19 (6-pk) WG
Prang fine-line markers – $2 (8-ct) OM
Crayola colored pencils – .88 TR, .99 (12-pack) WG
Crayola Washable Watercolor paints – 1.50 TR
Prang paint set – $2.00 (8-pan) OM
2-pocket folders – .01 OM, .09 WG, 10/$1 BL, .15 DN
2-pocket poly folder – .29 or .39 WG
2-pocket folder with prongs – .09 or .16 WG
poly folders with both prongs and pockets – .75 WM
1″ or 1.5″ poly binders – .30 OM, .75 WM
glue sticks – 10/$1.00 or .19 (2-pk)
Rose Art washable glue – .20 TR
Elmer’s Glue – .25 WM
wood ruler – .05 OM
12″ flexible or shatterproof rulers – .50 OM
plastic protractor – .05 OM
kids’ scissors – .50 TR & DN
Fiskar scissors – .79 WG
poly pencil or index card case – .39 WG
school box – .59 WG
carryall pouch (for pencils, etc.) – .59 WG
Wipes, Tissues, Sanitizer, Zipper Baggies
Kleenex or Puffs facial tissue – $3.47 (4-pack) WM remember to look for coupons
GermX hand sanitizer – $1.98 (12 oz.) WM
Wet Ones Fresh Scent antibacterial wipes – $1.98 WM
Lysol Wipes bonus pack – $4.47 (three 35-count pack for the price of 2) WM
backpack – $3.99 WG
Embark insulated lunch purse – $8 TR
1 TB Western Digital Elements desktop (or 500GB portable) hard drive – $74 TR
Texas Instruments 30XIIS 2-line solar scientific calculator – $9 TR
Dane-Elec 4GB USB Drive, 3 color choices (Regularly $19.99) – $9 TR
Message board, dry erase, cork, or magnetic – $5 TR