Back-to-school sales are in full swing at many major retailers. I scoped some of them out to see who has the best deals.

I also visited a dollar store. I have one friend who said she gets all of her child’s school supplies at the dollar store, and another, Colleen Roh, who said to “be wary of getting things at the dollar store,” since the back-to-school sales elsewhere usually have better prices and quality.

I love dollar store shopping, but I have to agree with Roh. It is not cheaper to get all of your supplies there. Sure, everything is $1. But that’s the problem.

Black composition books are only 50 cents at some stores, but they’re still a buck at the dollar store. Same with spiral-bound notebooks, which can be found for as little as 17 cents at Staples.

Speaking of the sales, it’s easy to go crazy and buy a bunch of stuff, but it’s a good idea to wait till you find out what the kids actually need, since a lot of things are provided by schools.

“Parents should ask at ‘meet the teacher’ night,” said first-grade teacher Autumn Klesch. “They really don’t need much at home during the elementary years.”

That being said, I like to stock up on some items I know we’ll use at home, such as notebooks, pencils and crayons, when I see them for supercheap. That’s what my friend Amanda Bilbo does, as well. “I buy them from Walmart when the sales are on,” said Bilbo, a mother of five. “And stock up so I have enough for all year.”

But make sure to check your inventory before shopping, suggests Tucson mom Sarah Bos. “Chances are, you still have that pair of safety scissors in your junk drawer. ... There are plenty of things you have stashed in your house already, and don’t need to buy them again.”

For the following price check, I picked items from a few Tucson Unified School District teachers’ lists.

Of the stores I went to, Staples, Target and Walmart currently have the best deals, overall. There are also some good deals at Kmart and Walgreens, but those stores were more expensive overall.

You’ll notice the total for the Dollar Tree is about 80 cents less than Walmart’s, but it is missing two products that I couldn’t find. If I were able to find those, the total would have been $11.50, which would make it more than a dollar higher than Walmart. And that’s with all of the generic off-brand items. Walmart’s total includes the Expo dry erase markers, which are $2.97, and Crayola brand crayons, which were only 50 cents.

Prices will likely go down as school shopping season comes to an end, so make sure and watch for even more price cuts.

Contact reporter Angela Pittenger at 573-4137 or Follow her on Twitter @CentsibleMama or on Facebook at

Families and schools reporter for #ThisIsTucson. Artist, photographer, mother of one.