It’s time to start thinking about school backpacks, lunchboxes, pens, pencils, computers, clothing and all the other items your kids will need for the coming academic year. Summer just flies by too quickly! But the good news is that many states are offering “tax-free holidays” to ease the financial burden on families.
Check Your State’s Back-to-School Tax Policy
Find out if your state offers a tax amnesty period (often a weekend or a week). Additionally, check to see what items qualify for the tax exemption, and if there’s a limit on how much you can spend tax-free. Don’t assume your state will give you a tax break this year just because it’s happened in the past. Georgia, for example, cancelled its back-to-school tax-free period for 2017 because of budget concerns.
Here’s a list of states offering back-to-school tax-free periods this year:
- Alabama: July 21-23
- Arkansas: Aug. 5-6
- Connecticut: Aug. 20-26
- Florida: Aug. 4-6
- Iowa: Aug. 4-5
- Louisiana: Aug. 4-5
- Maryland: Aug. 13-19
- Mississippi: July 28-29
- Missouri: Aug. 4-6
- New Mexico: Aug. 4-6
- Oklahoma: Aug. 4-6
- Ohio: Aug. 4-6
- South Carolina: Aug. 4-6
- Tennessee: July 28-30
- Texas: Aug. 11-13
- Virginia: Aug. 4-6
If you live in Alaska, Delaware, Montana, Oregon or New Hampshire, don’t worry—you don’t pay state sales tax anyway (but you might still have local and county sales taxes).
You might also be able to take advantage of tax-free holidays offered at other times during the year. So if you miss the back-to-school deals, you may be able to save later in the year.
Here are some other tips for successful back-to-school shopping:
1. Know What’s Hot
Before you buy that cute lunchbox or awesome backpack, check with your kids to find out if they “have to have!” a particular cool item that all the other kids will be sporting. Few things are more painful for a child than to walk into class wearing last year’s fashion or carrying a geeky item mom thought was awesome. Talk to your friends with children, as well, to get the latest scoop on what’s hot and what’s not.
2. Buy Some Items After School Starts
Once school starts, retailers start to dump unsold back-to-school inventory at low prices. You don’t need to buy your child’s entire wardrobe before the first day of school. Buy enough items to start her out, and then reap the benefits of waiting another week or two to fill her closet.
3. Check Grocery Store Gift Cards
Some grocery store chains with gas programs sell gift cards that give you double or quadruple gas points, depending on when you buy them. If you buy a $100 Best Buy gift card, for example, you’ll earn 400 gas points, or 40 cents a gallon off your next fill-up.