Every school year, I’m amazed at how much my family spends on back-to-school shopping. Apparently, we’re not alone.
Families with school-age children are expected to spend an average of $670 on back-to-school supplies this year, according to the National Retail Federation. If you have more than one school-age child, the spending can really punch a hole in your pocketbook.
Many families wait until the state’s Sales Tax Holiday to ease the sting of all those receipts. From Friday, August 8 through Sunday, August 10, parents can take advantage of the sales and tax exemption for most clothing, footwear, school supplies and backpacks priced under $100. This means shoppers save about $8 on every $100 spent.
If you’re doing the math that means on average, you potentially save about $50 on supplies for each school-age child.
Here are some tips to maximize your tax-free weekend savings:
Go to your school’s web site to get your child’s supply list, which should be broken down by grade level. Take inventory of leftover supplies from the previous school year and check off supplies you already have. Save your list on a mobile device or print it out and bring it with you when you shop. If you have college-age students, don’t forget to check the university web site for restricted dorm items. This is also a good time to go through clothes, shoes, etc. for items that can be donated or can be sold at a re-sale shop.
More than one-third of back-to-school shoppers and 45 percent of college families plan to do some of their shopping online this year, according to the NRF. Guess what? All sales of qualifying items made during the holiday period qualify for the exemption, including items sold online, or by telephone or mail. All online retailers should waive tax at checkout for exempt items.
It’s the time to capitalize on all of your reward cards and retail newsletters. Many retailers are offering extra incentives to shop during tax-free weekend. Some examples:
• AtJC Penney
, you can find an online only code (SAVBUNCH) that’s valid on August 8 and August 9. The code gives you an extra $30 off a purchases of $100 or more and $10 off $50 or more. Plus, if you spend more than $99, shipping is free.
• Office Depot and OfficeMax will have more than 1,000 items for $5 or less in store and online.
• At the Gap, you can earn “GapCash” that can be used for later purchases. For example, if you spend $50, you get $25 in GapCash.
Now is the time to splurge on a sturdy backpack, a good pair of jeans, a reliable winter coat or a nice pair of shoes -- items that could last throughout the school year and beyond. You can buy a backpack with wheels if it costs less than $100 and can be worn on the back like a traditional backpack.
Did you know that diapers, both cloth and disposable, are included in the tax exemption? The list of exempt items includes most clothing for adults, preschoolers and even babies. Scout uniforms and many professional uniforms (nurses, wait staff, firefighters, postal carriers etc.) are also exempt. The exemption also includes costumes and masks so you may want to find the perfect outfit for Halloween.
The exemption does not apply to sales of special clothing or footwear that the manufacturer primarily designed for athletic activity or protective use. This means football cleats, shoulder pads and helmets are out. The sales tax holiday exemption also does not extend to accessories, including jewelry, handbags, purses, briefcases, luggage, umbrellas, wallets and watches.
Get out the Sunday ads or search for deals online to do a little comparison shopping. You can also download apps such as RedLaser or ShopSavvy to do comparisons while you are shopping (just scan the bar codes and the app does the work). Bring your newspaper ads with you, many retailers will match the price of a competitor with proof.
If you’ve got orders on layaway, you pick them up and make the last payment on tax-free weekend and get the savings.
For a complete list of the school supplies and clothing items, go to the comptroller’s website at TexasTaxHoliday.org.