Saving money on your back-to-school shopping

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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - The summer break is over or just about over for students across Central Indiana. Parents are getting their kids ready to go back to school and we want to help.

All week, we're bringing you important information to make the transition easier, starting with uniforms.

School uniforms:

Plenty of private and public schools require uniforms for kids, from preschool all the way through high school. While uniforms can be convenient, a little extra time comparing costs can save you money.

We caught up with one mom who puts in that extra time when shopping for school uniforms. She says not all uniforms are created equal and you do get what you pay for. For her, it's not about finding what's cheapest, but getting the best quality for your buck.

"I look online, watch commercials, word of mouth, ask other parents who's got the best deals going on right now," said parent Angel Clark. "I like to come in the stores and see what I'm getting and check the quality myself. A lot of times there's better deals in the store than what I find online."

We looked at two of the leading retailers known for quality uniforms — JCPenney and Target.

We compared their prices in store and online. Take a look at what we found:

  • At Target, you can get polos in-store for $5, pants for $10 and shorts for $12. That's also currently their sale price online.
  • At JCPenney, we also found the same price in-store and online with sale prices at $9.99 for polos, $19.99 for pants and $14.99 for shorts.

Of course there are a some variances in styles and materials. JCPenney has pants with re-enforced knees and polos for girls with bows and other special touches that cost a little more.

But, at the end of the day, it does pay to shop around.

One of our news producers found she saved a pretty penny doing the cost comparison. Her efforts could save you money and a lot of time. She wrote a blog for us laying out what she did and where she found the best deals.

School supplies:

School supply shopping can be one of the most dreaded back-to-school tasks for families. While the students love it and the opportunity to pick out the latest designs in notebooks, binders and pens, parents cringe at the thought all of those extras will cost them.

We took a look at how a little extra time comparing costs could save you money.

Every school puts out their school supply list with the necessary supplies to help your child through the school year.

"I usually come to Target because I can get 5 percent and I think they have the best products and the best prices," said parent Kim Nohlachek.

But, we wanted to see for ourselves. We took a basic list for a first or second grader and took it to three top retailers, comparing prices in-store and online.

We visited Target, Walmart and Meijer.

The list was pretty simple, with 10 essential items including a 24-pack of pencils, a pencil box, 24-pack of crayons, a 6-pack of glue sticks, scissors, colored pencils, erasers, looseleaf paper, five folders and two spiral notebooks.

Our First Stop was Walmart:

  • In-store, our total was $18.90.
  • Online, that number went up almost $2 to $20.88.

Next, we visited Meijer:

  • The online and in-store prices were identical at $17.29.

But, we found our best deals at Target:

These lists didn't include things like backpacks or those classroom items like tissues, hand sanitizer or post-it notes.

Also, school supply kits are a growing trend. Some schools are ordering them for you now or there are a number of companies online where you send them your list and they put it all together for you and ship it to your front door.

A kit my daughter's middle school offered, includes all of the items on her list, plus the class donation items for just $30. I can promise you that's a lot less than it would cost to buy all of those items individually.

Again, it pays to compare. Of course, the prices in-store and online will vary, depending on the day and sales.