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Consumer Updates

Guide to back-to-school shopping during the tax-free weekend

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Better Business Bureau
August 8, 2013 | 2,383 views | Post a comment

SAN ANTONIO, Texas - Getting ready to go back to school? Join the crowd! In 2012, an estimated $83.8 billion dollars were spent on back-to-school shopping in the U.S., according to the National Retail Federation. That breaks down to the average person spending around $688.62 on their children in grades K-12. Of course, not everyone will spend that much. But before you dive into buying new clothes and supplies, Better Business Bureau has important tips for making the most out of your back-to-school shopping this tax-free weekend.

It’s important to note that not every item you may be shopping for will be tax free. The Texas tax-free law exempts most clothing, footwear, school supplies and backpacks priced less than $100 from sales and use taxes. The tax-free exemption applies to purchases made in-store, online and via mail. A complete list of items that qualify for exemption can be found on the Texas Comptroller’s website.

To help save time and money, BBB encourages families to:

Make a shopping list. Even if you don’t have a school supply list yet, you can still purchase other items like school clothing and in-class school essentials like pens, notebooks and backpacks. Make a list for each child, but start by “shopping at home” for items that you may already have left over from last year. For some items, it’s worth spending a bit more (a high-quality backpack will last for years).

Create a budget. Do a quick price search online for the items on your list and add them all up. Be sure to clip coupons, and make note of discount codes and any cash-back or rebate programs. If you goal is to reduce spending, now is the time to decide how much you want to cut. Of course, shopping on this tax-free weekend will help minimize that budget.

Know the difference between “Back-to-School Sale” and tax-free items. Retail stores may advertise back-to-school sales because they know consumers are buying items for the upcoming school year. Certain discounts will still have taxes applied to them unless the item appears on the state comptroller’s tax-free list.

Sign up for email alerts at your favorite stores. Monitoring pricing early on is key to finding good deals on quality products. Many sites will have an informed community of savvy shoppers on their blog or in their forums who willingly share deals, exclusive coupons, rebates and insider information on where and when to find the best prices and products. These alerts will assure you don’t miss out on the hottest items and/or limited opportunities.

Take advantage of discounts. Many stores offer student and teacher discounts on hot items like laptops and uniforms. Retailers will try to make room for fall fashion and the newest models, so there are incredible savings to be had if you do a little research.

Check the refund and exchange policies. Be sure you can exchange or return items that are purchased during this time period. Keep in mind, some items may be non-refundable or have restocking fees associated with a return.

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