The first day of school is coming up soon, and inflation is already squeezing budgets. Here are some tips and tricks can help you get the most mileage out of your money...
Chapter 1: Texas Tax-Free Weekend
The tax-free weekend starts on Friday, August 5 and lasts until midnight on Sunday, August 7. Eligible items including school supplies, clothing, and shoes under $100 are tax-free. You can buy as many qualifying items as you want but each item must cost less than $100. That means a savings of $8 for every $100 you spend, but you can save even more by stacking discounts and sales.
Chapter 2: School supplies
Before you begin shopping, do this to save:
“The very first step for good back-to-school shopping is evaluating what you already have and it sounds so basic, but you probably don’t remember what’s even in your kid’s backpack at this point,” said Trae Bodge, the smart shopping expert of True Trae. “You want to go through it and see what’s usable and make a list based on what you need and what the school is asking you to get.”
Next, buy store-brand items:
“The store brand school supplies are going to be the best bang for your buck. Not only are they cheaper than brand names, but retailers have more power to offer sales on their own brands,” said Andrea Woroch, a smart saving expert. “They know if they can offer really deeply discounted merchandise, like I’ve seen five-cent notebooks from Staples and Office Depot, they know that’s going to attract people in the store. As long as you avoid buying other items at full price, that’s the best way to save on your basics.”
Chapter 3: Clothing choices
Many students want to head back to school in style. Those new on-trend school clothes can definitely put a dent in parents’ budgets, but there are plenty of ways to save.
Next, grab those clearance deals on summer clothing now. Here is a trick to making them last into the next season:
“A lot of those summer clothing pieces can be worn for the first few weeks or months of school because it’s so warm, said Woroch. “Plus, you can layer them in winter so a dress could be layered with a long sleeve shirt and a pair of tights.”
Wait until October to buy fall clothing. That is when it will go on sale.
Plus, do not spend your entire clothing budget before school starts advised Bodge. That is because there is likely to be a cool clothing trend your child will want later.
Also, note that all uniforms, not just for school, but for working adults such as firefighters, police officers, and postal workers, are tax-free.
Plus, for parents, all diapers both cloth and disposable are tax-free as well.
Chapter 4: Online shopping
The tax-free holiday applies to online shopping, too. Just be careful because shipping and delivery fees do count towards that $100 limit per item.
“For example, if you purchased a pair of jeans online for $95 and there’s a $10 delivery or shipping and handling fee, that would be added to that item’s sale price and bring it up to $105, so it would not be eligible,” said Karen Hudgins with the Texas Comptrollers’ Office. “Please keep that in mind when you’re shopping online to just pay attention to the shipping and delivery charges because that will add to the product’s price and might put it over that tax-free threshold.”
The tax is automatically taken off for you, so you do not need to do anything at check out either online or in-store.
Chapter 5: Electronics
The tax-free holiday does not apply to computers and electronics. Electronics can really take a bite of your back-to-school budget.
The best way to save is to buy refurbished electronics. You can save 30 to 60 percent. A lot of people are skeptical about buying refurbished electronics because they worry the item will break easily. Yet, there are ways to put your mind at rest.
Next, make sure the item is certified.
Finally, get a warranty.
“As long as it is certified and it comes from a reputable retailer that offers a warranty, you will have peace of mind knowing that this is going to be covered if any issues arise,” said Woroch. “They have been inspected and fixed to work and look like new.”
Wait until September to purchase new electronics, if you can.
“Later in the summer, you’ll see more sales on electronics, especially over Labor Day weekend,” said Bodge. “So timing can be really essential, especial when you’re buying something pricey like a laptop or phone.”
Older models will also be less expensive if you choose to buy a gadget brand-new.
Plus, take advantage of the Affordable Connectivity Program to get a $30 discount on home internet service. Your income must be at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines to qualify.
Chapter 6: Worth waiting?
There are some essentials you might want to wait to buy for a better deal.
“We actually recommend holding off until September for things like backpacks and lunchboxes, because at that point, retailers are trying to get rid of school supplies,” said Julie Ramhold of Dealnews.com “If you can hold off a little bit, it may mean saving a lot, doing it that way.”
Just be aware you will pay tax on those items if you buy them after the tax-free weekend.
Chapter 7: Healthy lunches
Back to school for many parents means going back to packing lunches. Grocery prices are skyrocketing, making it hard to afford healthy foods. Here is how to keep school lunches healthy and affordable:
First, do not buy pre-packaged or pre-cut foods. Yes, it is convenient, but you can spend less by cutting-up foods yourself.
When it comes to fruits and veggies, consider buying canned or frozen. Then you do not need to worry about them going bad. They will last longer and will be a fraction of the cost if you buy them fresh.
Next, buy your lunch staples in bulk. Make sure you have space to freeze fresh meats, fruits, and veggies or to store nonperishable items so you do not need to use them all at once.
“Buy some of those healthy ingredients wholesale because you save almost 40% in some cases and that’s a lot with as high as grocery prices are right now,” said Bodge.
Finally, make sure whatever grocery store you shop at, sign up for the loyalty program. Many now are apps. You will be able to find digital coupons that you can stack with sales items to save more.
Chapter 8: Free school supplies
With the start of a new school year quickly approaching, several back-to-school events are going to be taking place across San Antonio. Here are just some of those supply drives, according to Christina, a savings educator of Saving With Christina.
- On Wednesday, August 3, a back-to-school event at Pica Plaza will be taking place from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. A free backpack with some school supplies will be handed out to children but the child must have a wristband. Those wristbands will be given out at 8 a.m. There will also be free haircuts and more. For more information, click here.
- On Saturday, August 6, Gillman Honda will be hosting a back-to-school event from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. where free backpacks, school supplies, and food will be given away. There will also be activities, music, other giveaways, and more. To learn more about that event, click here.
- On Monday, August 10, at the Fusion Academy, there will be an event with giveaways, a free vaccine clinic, and other educational resources. The event will start at 2 p.m. You can RSVP here.
For more ways to snag big deals, save money on everyday supplies and take advantage of major promotions from Saving with Christina, click here.
Chapter 9: Teacher discounts
Teachers deserve a discount for all the tough work they do helping students learn.
Two stores offer teacher discounts:
HEB is giving 20 percent off school supplies, office supplies, and select household items. Pre-K-12 teachers need to apply for the discount by August 27 and must use the coupon by August 30.
Target is offering 15 percent off through September 10. The discount applies to all K-12 teachers, homeschool teachers, teachers working at daycare centers and early childhood learning centers, university or college professors, and vocational/trade/technical teachers.
“Teachers can get these discounts on top of the already low sale prices that are happening,” said Christina, who is also a former teacher.
There are several other teacher appreciation discounts in our area.
Sea World offers a complimentary teacher card to all active and certified Pre-K-12 Texas teachers for unlimited admission through 1/23. Teachers can opt to add an Aquatica pass for an additional $35.
The San Antonio Zoo gives Texas teachers free standard admission during the month of August, plus up to four guests can get 50 percent off admission the day of their visit. You must be an active teacher in any school district in the State of Texas, employed by an accredited Pre-K-12 public, private, or parochial school to qualify. You will need to provide a driver’s license and one of the following items at the ticket window to get the discount:
- Copy your teacher’s certificate
- Photo ID/Badge from school or district
The San Antonio Aquarium always as has free entry for educators.
Teachers can also sign up for the VerifyPass to get discounts to:
- Six Flags
- AMC, Cinemark, and Regal Theaters
- Sam’s Club
- Disneyland, Disney World, and Universal Studios
See other national discounts teachers can take advantage of.
Teachers will need to apply for and be verified to take advantage of these offers.