Tax-Free Weekend 2018: Back-to-School Shopping Hacks

I’m not going to start this post with something sappy like, “Oh, I wish summer would last forever!” Nope. I am READY for my kids to go back to school. I love them dearly and enjoy their company, however, they thrive in the structure of the school year (and so does this type-A mama). That being said, what better way to celebrate the beginning of the end of summer with some good ol’ fashioned tax-free shopping?

I can hear some of you now. You dread the rush of people picking our their binders and the hoards of grumpy kids using rulers as light sabers and complaining about having to wear something besides flip flops all day. I get it, I really do. But think of it this way — the frenzy of back-to-school shopping is the gateway to all great things: football, autumn consignment sales and Halloween. Yep, it means our favorite fall activities are coming, and I.AM.SO.READY.

It is easy to become overwhelmed when cruising the back-to-school sections in almost every store, so I have compiled some fail-safe tips to maximize your budget:

Grab your supply list before you go

If you haven’t picked up a supply list yet from your local drugstore or big chain retailer, you can visit your school’s website. It is very easy to have a mini-panic attack while roaming those aisles and aisles of folders, binders, pencils, paper, markers, etc. If your child attends a public school in Jacksonville, you can go here to the DCPS website.

Tip: Don’t have a printer? Snap a pic or screenshot the supply list, so you will have it with you!

Compare prices from the comfort of your phone!

I don’t go anywhere without my phone or my (updated) apps. Most major retailers have very user-friendly interfaces and all have a barcode scanner. I don’t know about you, but my kids LOVE scanning items at the self-checkout. So I enlist their help with this back-to-school shopping task! I will scan items and compare prices. How, you ask? Easy. Let’s say I am at Target, and I spot the 3-ring binder on their list. I will scan it with my Target app (mainly to check for any Cartwheel coupons). Then, I will scan the same item with my Walmart, Office Depot and Walgreens app. What the what?! You can do that?! Sure you can! I am checking the same identical item at multiple stores. If I find it cheaper at another store, I just add it to the cart (or app shopping list). Sure, I am shopping a few different stores, but you really should be anyway if you are trying to maximize your dollars this weekend.

Tip: Don’t forget about Amazon! Their search feature from their app is so easy to use, and you can compare prices on everything with a barcode.

Deals that seem too good to be true (probably are)

The store will probably only let you buy a few at that price, but you may need to make a minimum purchase. I’m talking about the office supply stores, and you need to read the fine print. It may state that the super low price is only valid after purchasing $5 worth of merchandise. I have found that these stores do not consistently have the lowest price but do have the best selection. By no means am I saying not to buy those one-cent folders — buy as many as you can! (Even if they aren’t on your list — you can always donate them to the school or school-supply drives.) I’m just warning you to be leery of these stores’ prices for things that aren’t in their sale ad. They are traditionally much more expensive.

Don’t wait until the weekend before school to do your shopping!

Procrastination will significantly impact your ability to get the best deals, and you will miss tax-free time! Most Open Houses will be just days before the actual first day of school, so time will not be on your side. This is when people tend to spend way more than they should on items that were half that price a few weeks earlier. The days between meeting your child’s teachers and the first day should be filled with shopping for lunches and finalizing your routine, not schlepping from store to store searching for the exact brand of binder you need.

No one said you need to have a child in school to enjoy these deals!

Before my kids could even walk, I was shopping back-to-school sales. Heck, who doesn’t love a $1 pack of pens that are normally $4.99? I’m a sucker for an office supply deal! Of course, the majority of back-to-school shopping is done for supplies we need now, but it is always a good idea to plan ahead. 24-packs of Crayola Crayons will run you about $1.50 throughout the year, but during August, they are often found for 50 cents. Think birthday goodie bags, stocking stuffers and even as non-candy Halloween treats.

“Ugh, really? I really don’t want to have to buy back-to-school clothes, too!”

Here’s a secret we told you a few years ago — waiting until September to buy clothes is a great idea, especially summer clothes. (And seriously, when are shorts not appropriate in Florida — aside from maybe one week in January?) You won’t cash in on the tax-free weekend savings, but you may save even more.

The Tax-Free Weekend Fine Print

Florida Tax-Free Weekend 2018: Florida’s Back-to-School Shopping Sales Tax Holiday is scheduled for August 3-5, 2018. Qualifying purchases include:

SCHOOL SUPPLIES, up to $15 each. Sales tax will not be charged on items such as pens, pencils, erasers, rulers, and glue. The state set a price limit of $15 per item for this category, but left off items such as staplers and computer paper.

CLOTHING, up to $60 each. Florida legislators were a little more generous than years’ past. Garments and accessories are tax-free up to $60 each.

SHOES, up to $60 per pair. Shoes are eligible for the tax exemption. As with clothing, however, only footwear costing less than $60 per pair will ring up tax-free.

What’s your favorite back-to-school deal? Where do you do most of your shopping?

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