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Amazon or Walmart: Which is Cheaper for School Supplies?

Is Amazon or Walmart cheaper for school supplies?Since I am on a mission to avoid Walmart as much as I can this year, I thought it would be interesting to see if school supplies were comparably priced or cheaper on Amazon Prime. To do my research, I actually had to go to Walmart and get the school supply list for 2nd grade. Not sure why they don’t post it online, but what can you do? While I was there I spent about an hour seeking out cost of supplies, which ranks just above a root canal in my book. That’s right, I took one for the team to show you who has the best prices.

Always Pleasant Wal Mart Shopping Experience

I’m beginning to wonder if it’s just my Walmart that has extremely terrible customer service. On this trip, I had to ask an associate where something was. She just pointed and said, “It’s over behind stationery.” Hmmm, that would be helpful if I knew where stationery was, but I digress.

I did take more time that I thought because an older lady who spoke limited English needed help figuring out what she was supposed to buy for her grandkids. It’s harder than you might think to explain what a one inch binder is, so I went down the list with her and showed her where all the items were.

School Supplies For Elementary

I looked through all the grades, and it seems many of the supplies for elementary school were similar, regardless of age. The high school and middle schools required even less, with a calculator being the only thing I would grade as potentially expensive, although there were calculators at Wal Mart for $2.99. These are the supplies we have to provide for 2nd grade and their prices at Walmart vs Amazon.

24 Pack Crayola Crayons

Walmart:  1.97          Amazon: 11.49/24 in box, pack of 6

2 Packs (24 ct) Ticonderoga Pencils

Walmart: 4.96            Amazon: 4.00

2 Plastic Folders With Brads (WTF is a brad ?)

Walmart: .50 each    Amazon Price: .52 each if buying 12 pack

1 Pink Eraser (I’m guessing this is Pink Pearl, why do they care what color?)

Walmart: .50/2 pack   Amazon: .54/3 pack

 1 Pack Water Based Markers

Walmart:1.97   Amazon: 1.97

3 Glue Sticks

Walmart: 1.97/3pk   Amazon: 1.60/4pk

 1 Pack Wide Ruled Paper

Walmart: .82/100ct   Amazon:  2.58/200ct

1 Wide Ruled Spiral Notebook

Walmart:  .75   Amazon:  3.77/4pk

Fiskars Scissors

Walmart: 2.47   Amazon: 1.88

2 Large Boxes of Tissues

Walmart:  3.72/ Puffs 432ct   Amazon:  15.09/Kleenex 960ct

2 Boxes Baby Wipes (one for classroom, one for art)

Walmart: 1.88/80ct   Amazon: 10.97/448ct

 Clean PE shoes to leave at school (if these are not practically new, they will send them home)

Walmart: 14.97/ Danskin or Avia   Amazon: 24.99/ Skechers Kids Lite Swirlz Sneaker

What About Other Supplies?

 I also looked at backpacks, calculators, tablets, Chromebooks, and laptops.

Although Walmart did have a selection of backpacks from $3.99 up to $12.99, those all felt and looked like very cheap quality. My kid would wear them out before Christmas. A higher quality one at Walmart was $18.99, but I bet it still is not as good as this JanSport on Amazon for around $20. I had a Jansport backpack from high school on,  and it is  still in very good shape. Personally, I’d rather spend a little more on that type item and have it last several years rather than buy a crappy one every year, but that’s just me.

 Basic calculators were pretty cheap everywhere, but if you need a graphing calculator, Amazon’s price on the Texas Instruments TI-83 Graphing Calculator was $81, while Walmart was $96.

Acer Aspire E1-572-6870 15.6 Inch Laptopat Walmart was $498, and $419 on Amazon.

11.6 inch Chromebooks were around $179 on Amazon and $229 at Walmart.

Who Was Cheaper?

For basic supplies, Walmart was the winner. While prices on Amazon were comparable or even cheaper in some cases, you had to buy multipacks to get the lower price. This might work if you are shopping for multiple kids, but isn’t smart if you have an only child. I don’t have a Target or any other big box store in my town, but I imagine the prices are pretty similar to Walmart.

For more expensive items like laptops or Chromebooks, I’d buy Amazon every time. The selection is better. You don’t have to find a store associate to help you get the item up to the register, and prices of the things I researched were less on Amazon.

As much as I would have loved to say everything is cheaper online, Walmart is the clear winner in price, at least for many basic school supplies. Amazon was the better deal for electronics or if you want higher quality items. One stop shopping is always easier, but for the best prices, it does take a combined effort most of the time.

Where do you buy school supplies? Do  you comparison shop or get it over with at once?


Image: Freedigitalphotos.net/photomyheart

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. It doesn’t surprise me that Walmart came out on top for most of these items. Every year I take the kids to go shopping and its ridiculous how cheap some of their items are. I’m sure they do that however to use “Black Friday” style tactics of getting people in the door in hopes they’ll do the rest of their shopping there and then they can make up the difference.

  2. MomofTwoPreciousGirls

    It’s so weird that you have bad service at your walmart. I have lived in several states and parts of states and they are very nice!
    What I like at this time is they have everything on the school lists right in one spot, seemingly in the order they are listed. I zoomed right through!
    What I don’t like is this thing where you send the kids with generic supplies. There’s no fun for the kids. Basically we are buying supplies for the whole class.

    • They had all the main things up front, but I had to search for calculators and the name brand of pencils the school requires. I guess the el cheapo pencils don’t hold up for 2nd graders.

  3. MomofTwoPreciousGirls

    Oh one exception on the service is the deli. Not that they aren’t nice…just oblivious to people!

  4. I guess I’m not really surprised that Walmart comes out on top on a list of supplies provided by Walmart. Publix publishes price comparison lists against Walmart and always comes out on top by comparing items that are on sale at Publix. =)

    • The list is from the school district. You just can’t get it anywhere except at Walmart. It used to also be at the grocery store, but it’s just at Walmart now.

      • Why on earth does the school district distribute its list via Walmart? I hope they are giving a big kickback to the district for sending them all those customers.

        • I think it’s more because we really don’t have many other stores except the grocery. I am surprised there wasn’t a list at Walgreen’s. I’m not sure if the school does it directly or if Walmart goes to get it. Regardless, it would be helpful to have it on the school website. They did distribute a list at registration, but it’s best to shop early. Many of the cheap things get sold out and you have to buy a more expensive version if you wait. Learned that the hard way.

  5. I was on the same mission to avoid Walmart. Fortunately, my grocery store had all of the supplies we needed and they were CHEAP!

  6. Yeah, Walmart sucks. And really, if their customer service was better I would totally brave the crowds and everything! I’ve converted almost entirely to Amazon 🙂

    • I think what gets me is just the whole indifference shown to customers at our Walmart. They will check you out, but if you want to use a coupon that won’t scan or have a question, they could care less if you walk away. I was in the express line once and a guy had one toothbrush. It would not scan so the cashier made him go back to the aisle and get another one. At the grocery, they would have just charged a dollar and went on about their day. This tells me employees don’t have any sort of loyalty or good will toward their employer, probably because their employer has none of that toward them.

  7. It doesn’t surprise me that Walmart came out on top most of the times. I’m actually in the middle of writing a similar post, but comparing grocery and around the house items. It easily took me about the same amount of time in the store because they seem to have no reason behind placement of many items. That’s also not to mention the fact that it’s Wal-Mart. 😉

    • I am curious to see what your research shows. I think they are usually cheaper on processed foods, but not milk, bread, or produce IF you buy them on sale at the grocery.

  8. Walmart does have great buying power for basic stuff like this. Amazon is great too, but I would probably just buy on Amazon as I hate any experience in Walmart.

    • Yep. I spent an hour there and bought nothing. It would have been easy just to stock up, but I was too stubborn and ordered what I could on Amazon. The rest I’ll wait until we need to go to the bigger town and hit up Target.

  9. Wow you really did take one for the team, since going to wallmart around here (which is not very close) is like entering the seventh circle of hell. 🙂 And I have no idea what a brad is either. 🙂

  10. I have always been a Walmart Mom and I find their items cheaper than any store I’ve been to.

  11. Walmart is one of the worst employers in the world. I refuse to shop at one. I shop at Target instead. The prices are basically the same and they have a much better relationship with the people who work for them.

    • I love your candor! I kind of feel that same way, but we don’t have another option unless I drive 70 miles. That’s why Amazon is my new best friend.

  12. We buy most of the basic school supplies at Target. Walmarts are less prevalent in LA but Target is in almost every city. 🙂 Most of our comparison shopping is on their clothes, although I agree that I would rather buy a higher quality, more classic backpack that they can use for a few years than a cheap one. Of course the cheap one have whatever is current on them, so sometimes I lose that battle. 🙂

  13. I watch for sales and pick up the school supply items as they go on sale. Most of my purchases are at Walmart or Target, however I will occasionally find a good deal at the grocery store. For instance, last week the glue sticks were a dime at the Walmart in our area, so I bought many more than were needed. For the past 2 years we have a request for more glue sticks around Christmas and I have a stockpile to pull from and send in.
    If you need something mid-year chances are the prices will be better at Amazon. I ordered a case of glue sticks for $11.97 last year in December because they had the best price per glue stick. Also, things like pencils will be needed every year, so I like to grab them on clearance once school starts.

    • We seem to go through pencils faster than toilet paper so I bought several of those. I never thought about stockpiling cheap supplies, but that certainly makes sense to save them for stocking stuffers. Thanks for the idea!

  14. This is my first year buying school supplies. However I always comparison shop as well as take advantage of Walmart’s price comparison policy.

  15. Thankfully my days of buying school supplies haven’t started yet and I haven’t had to buy anything in about four years since I graduated college. It makes sense that Walmart is cheaper for some things because they don’t have to ship anything. Granted they have to stock (and man) a store, so maybe it is surprising that Walmart won out…

  16. “if it’s just my Walmart that has extremely terrible customer service….” Uh…No. We did all our school shopping at Target and Office Depot. Walmart is a no-go for me anymore unless the end of the world is about to occur.

  17. Staples is doing a 110% price match on all school supplies this year- on or offline. They’ll beat ANY price by 10%!

  18. You know where I get my school supplies — Staples 🙂 But I don’t think you have one near you? The next place I’d look is Walgreens. They run some great back to school sales. But I’m the kind of person who will stop in to a store and pick up one item at a time over 4-6 weeks, if it means I can get it for 70% off or more 🙂

    • No, no Staples nearby, but we do have a Walgreen’s and they do have some really cheap school supplies that I noticed in the ad this week.

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