Simplified: We searched three different retailers in Sioux Falls – Walmart, Target and Office Depot – to find the best deals on school supplies. We also looked at quality of materials and overall shopping experience. Here's what we found.

Why it matters

  • It will cost an average of $51.72 for school supplies this fall for parents of elementary school students. We chose elementary grades because the lists showed the least variation school-to-school.
  • That cost doesn't include other related back-to-school shopping like new shoes, clothes, supplies for extracurricular activities, etc.
  • We also found that even with more than three weeks until the first day of school, some retailers already had empty shelves. So if you haven't started thinking about school supply shopping, know that your options will only get more limited the longer you wait.

What was the process?

The total prices listed below include the cheapest price per item for every supply listed on the Sioux Falls School District shopping list for kindergarteners, third grade and fifth grade, respectively.

Those costs were added up, and then taxed at Sioux Falls' 6.5% rate, which resulted in the total price on the other side.

  • The reference lists came from Susan B. Anthony Elementary school, but most elementary lists were the same across the district.
  • Every grade had some combination of notebooks, folders, glue, art and writing supplies, tissues and headphones. The quantity and type of supplies varied per grade.

Let's look at those prices

Here's the total for kindergarten prices:

  • Walmart's grand total was $18.16.
  • Target's grand total was $56.25.
  • Office Depot's grand total was $44.03.

And for third graders?

  • Walmart's grand total was $24.32.
  • Target's grand total was $68.55.
  • Office Depot's grand total was $57.14.

And for fifth graders?

  • Walmart's grand total was $25.73.
  • Target's grand total was $72.11.
  • Office Depot's grand total was $62.45.

Ok, the prices are clear. But what's the full report?

Walmart came out ahead as the cheapest for every grade, but – at least at the 41st Street and Louise Avenue location – the school supply section was a mess. If finding items quickly and in good condition is more important to you, steer clear of Walmart.

  • Most of the displays were around the front of the store, but there were some displays were up to 20 feet away from the main section.
  • Some of the folders were bent and some notebooks broken, so it might take you a second to sort through the damaged goods to find new-looking supplies.

Target at 49th and Louise Avenue was pretty picked over. There were a few workers trying to redisplay and restock aisles, but some fellow shoppers were getting disheartened when they found empty shelves.

  • While Target had the supplies for each grade, there weren't always options and some of my choices weren't the cheapest offered, just the cheapest available.
  • The price was heavily increased by the headphones, which were on most lists. They only had a $30 set in stock. If your kid already has headphones, Target will about equal out with Office Depot.
  • This was the only store with a fully designated back-to-school section where everything was found in that one area.

Office Depot on 41st Street and Grange Avenue was the quietest and cleanest of all three stores.

  • They had everything on the list, but not quite as many options as Walmart.
  • This was the only store where everything was fully stocked.
  • If organization and a quiet store matters more, this may be your go-to.
  • If you're buying for multiple kids, Office Depot had the cheapest bulk packs for pencils, scissors, erasers, glue and rulers.

If you'd like to take a look at the individual supply price breakdown, check out the Google sheet calculations here.