The back-to-school shopping season is underway, and according the National Retail Federation (NRF), it is second in terms of sales only to the winter holidays. According to NRF’s 2014 Back-to-School Survey, the average family with children in grades K-12 will spend almost $700.00 on apparel, shoes, supplies and electronics, up five percent from last year’s back to school spending.


To help keep costs down, the annual tax-free shopping weekend offers relief for parents. Tax-free exemption applies to purchases made in-store, online and via mail. It’s important to note that not every item you may be shopping for will be tax free. The law exempts most clothing, footwear, school supplies and backpacks priced under $100 from sales and use taxes, which could save shoppers about eight dollars on every $100 they spend. A detailed list of items that qualify for exemption can be found on the Texas Comptroller’s website.

But before you dive into buying new clothes and supplies, Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving Central, Coast, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin has important advice for making the most out of your back-to-school shopping.

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

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 its blog or in forums sharing, 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.

Make a shopping list. Even if you don’t have a school supply list yet, you can still purchase other items early, like school clothing and in-class school essentials like pens, notebooks and backpacks. Make a list for each child, and go back through old supplies you may still have left over from last year.

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 your goal is to reduce spending, now is the time to decide how much you want to cut. Consumers may want to consider spending a bit more on high quality products that will last longer and save money in the long run.

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.

Take advantage of discounts. Many stores offer student and teacher discounts on hot items like laptops and uniforms. Retailers will also 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. Keep your receipts and find out the exchange or return policy for items purchased during this time period. Keep in mind, some items may be non-refundable or have restocking fees associated with them.

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