Back to school shopping doesn't follow the same trajectory as other shopping pursuits. If you wait until the week before school starts, many of the best deals are long gone and some items are out of stock. That's the opposite of many items where clearance deals pop up as the season wanes.
Carrie Rocha, a Twin Cities' resident and Pocket Your Dollars blogger, has been tracking the best weekly deals on more than 50 items since July. Each Monday she releases a new chart of the week's best deals. This week she found the best deals on character backpacks ($4.97), 3-ring binders ($0.88 to $0.97), scientific calculator Texas Instruments TI-30xa ($8.94), Crayola crayons ($0.24 for 24), composition notebooks ($0.50)--all at Wal-Mart, highlighters ($1 after coupon, Office Depot/Max), and Post-It notes ($4.42 at Target). Check out the entire list at PocketYourDollars.
One back-to-school item that can wait until after Labor Day is clothing. Kids can check to see what styles continue to be popular. Later in the fall, items such as jeans and boots will be discounted.
Don't forget about price matching policies if you want to attempt one stop shopping. You'll need the competitor's current ad or an online printout. (Not all stores match online prices.)
Based on Rocha's price lists, it appears that Wal-Mart has the lowest prices most often. She also lists the best price of the season so you'll know how good a deal is. Remember to check your child's list against the school's recommended one, often found in local neighborhood discounters.