back to school
There’s still another month or so of summer, but it’s time to start thinking about back-to-school supplies if you’re a parent or student. And, if you’re like most families surveyed by the National Retail Federation, you’ll be spending a little more than last year — as much as 9.6% more.

Market analysts consider it a good sign when we consumers feel comfortable spending more money, but most of us are always looking for little ways to save too. If that’s the case, you might want go shopping… this weekend.

This Weekend?…What?
You’ve probably heard August isn’t the ideal month to shop for school supplies, and that’s mostly true. Many of the more expensive items (minus laptops, which are at their all-time low) are less expensive to buy after Labor Day if you can wait. The clincher is that August is the month most states offer what’s known as a “tax-free” shopping weekend specifically for back to school supplies.

On these days, state sales tax is temporarily withheld on most clothing and school-related supplies under $100 per item (guidelines vary by state). Of the 16 states participating this year, three hold their sales the last weekend in July (sorry, Georgia, Tennessee and Mississippi). Most do it the first weekend in August, a few later in the month. Here’s this year’s list for August:

  • August 5th through the 7th: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia
  • August 14th through the 20th: Maryland
  • August 21 through the 27th: Connecticut

The rules about what’s tax-free and what isn’t will be listed on your state’s .gov website, usually under the Department of Revenue or comptroller’s page (just search for “sales tax holiday”). Also, don’t get confused by the dates for other tax-free events, such as those for energy-efficient appliances, firearms and hunting gear, etc. Keep in mind that this event doesn’t necessarily include city sales tax, as many cities choose not to participate. Your state or city’s official website should have that information, as well.

Heads Up, Teachers

Parents aren’t the only ones who spend money on back to school items. Surveys from 2015 indicate teachers spent an average of $490 of their own money on supplies for their classrooms. Even though supplies purchases with the school’s funds qualify for tax exemption on a regular basis, we all know it’s never enough. Using your state’s tax-free weekend could help save you a little bit on that ‘above and beyond’ you are so well known for.

Coordinate with Sales

Many retailers play up tax-free back-to-school shopping weekends by offering special sales. You’ll save money on state sales tax regardless of where you shop, so it’s a good opportunity to compare the sales to get the best retail price, too. Keep in mind that if most of the items you need are in one location, you can still ask the store to “comp” lower prices offered by their competitors, and don’t fall for sale ‘illusions.’

I hope this information was helpful. Shopping might not be the way you planned to spend the last few weekends of summer, but it is a good time to save on your family’s back to school essentials with these sales tax holidays.