Writer: Paul Schattenberg, 210-859-5752, email@example.com
Contact: Joyce Cavanagh, 979-845-3859, firstname.lastname@example.org
COLLEGE STATION — Back-to-school shopping can be an expensive proposition, especially if you don’t plan ahead, said Joyce Cavanagh, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service specialist in family and consumer sciences, College Station.
Cavanagh said consumers should approach school shopping much like they do grocery shopping.
“Parents need to spend some time planning, budgeting and prioritizing, as well as learning where and when to shop,” Cavanagh said. “Find out what you already have and then prepare a list of what you need and try not to deviate from it. Budget for the essential items first and avoid impulse buying.”
Cavanagh said it’s best to avoid taking young children on school supply shopping trips as “they may beg or whine until you buy something you don’t need.”
Some tips Cavanagh gave on being a more prepared back-to-school shopper are:
— Check through the drawers and closets of your home and do an inventory of the supply items you may already have.
— After finding out what you already have, prepare a thorough list of needed items and prioritize them. Many schools provide students with a list of supplies they will need for the school year.
— If you take your kids shopping with you, first talk to them about the meaning of the word “budget” and let them know there will be limits on what you’ll be spending.
“School shopping can be a ‘teachable moment’ during which your kids can learn about managing money and staying within a budget,” Cavanagh said.
— Comparison shop. Look at various ads for different stores and look for back-to-school specials. Check newspapers, circulars and online sites for coupons. Many stores offer price and/or coupon matching,
“You can buy many basic school supplies at dollar stores and thrift shops,” she said. “If you’re on a strict budget, thrift shops and resale stores are also a great place to look for clothing bargains. Garage sales are another option, if you have the time to locate where they’re being held and do some digging.”
— Buy supplies during a sales tax holiday. Texas is one of the states offering sales tax relief on a large number of school supply items during specific dates established by the state’s legislature. This year, the official Sales Tax Holiday has been set for Aug. 5-7. For more information, go to: http://comptroller.texas.gov/taxinfo/taxpubs/taxholiday/d/.
“This law exempts most clothing, shoes, school supplies and backpacks under $100 from sales and use taxes,” Cavanagh said. “It applies to items not only bought in stores, but also online or phone or mail. Shoppers are also allowed to use layaway plans to purchase tax-exempt items.”
— Shop at the right time. If you know what you need, you can find many supplies on sale before the back-to-school shopping rush begins. Check to see if that sale price with tax will be the same or even better than if you bought it during the sales tax holiday.
“You can often find really good deals on items if you can wait until the back-to-school shopping rush is over,” Cavanagh said. “By waiting, you can save a lot of money on some items, but this may also limit your selection.”
Cavanagh also noted textbooks are an expensive item for college students.
“If you’re looking for college textbooks, try a resale bookstore or check online for deals,” she said. “There are sites where you can buy digital copies of textbooks that you can download to your e-reader. There are also sites where you can sell the books when you’re through with them.”