This summer is flying by — though it’s not the shortest summer we have ever had. Where 2016 was only 65 days long, this year, the kids were out for 72 days. With a May that seemed to never end, the summer is nearly over and another back-to-school season has quickly arrived.
Actually, I’m okay with the fact that school will be starting soon; I am longing for the routine that comes with the school year and having TWO kids in elementary school! And this year, while we do not have an entire week of deals, we still have 72 hours of money-saving shopping. Starting on Friday, August 4 and ending Sunday, August 6 at 11:59 p.m., this year’s Florida Sales Tax Holiday is brief — but that’s okay!
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 back-to-school 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. Schools are listed in alphabetical order, just click on the name to go directly to their site.
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
In an effort to save myself (and the kids) a morning of driving from one sale to another, I was determined to find a way to save time. I knew I would save money with the tax-free holiday, but could I save time (and sanity) as well? The answer was as close as my fingertips. I browsed the App Store and found a few helpful (and free) apps that promised to save me time and money. I have used Favado in the past, but I was intrigued by a new app I just read about named Retale. With Retale, you can search specifically for sale ads for stores around you and create a shopping list. I found this very helpful for the name-brand items on my list such as Crayola Crayons and Clorox Wipes. I also love the app, Sale, that gives you all your favorite store’s sale circulars in one place.
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.
You can still save money, even if you are a ‘store snob’!
We all have that friend, the one who wouldn’t be caught dead in a certain big-box retail supercenter that starts with the letter W. That W-store does traditionally have the lowest prices for back-to-school items, but I found a way you might just beat W’s lowest price. (I’m talking to you, Target-lovers.) If you aren’t using Target’s Cartwheel app, you are truly missing out on a very easy way to save money. Easier than clipping coupons, Cartwheel allows you to search for items on sale either by browsing the sales categories, searching for the item by name or scanning the barcode. This time of year, they even have a Back-to-School category listed. You simply select the items you want to add to your Cartwheel list. Then when you check out, the cashier scans the barcode on your phone. If you have any Cartwheel items in your order, the discount is applied immediately. If you happen to be using Target’s RedCard, you will save an additional 5% on your total purchase, plus a donation will be made to the school of your choice.
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 the tax-free week! 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 last year — 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 2017: Florida’s Back-to-School Shopping Sales Tax Holiday is scheduled for August 4-6, 2017. Qualifying purchases include:
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. In 2013, the exemption stopped at $75 per piece.
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.
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.
What’s your favorite back-to-school deal? Where do you do most of your shopping?