Back-to-school season means shopping, whether your children learn at home or head to school in person.
Before determining what students may need for the year, set a budget. Planning ahead as much as possible will help keep expenses to a minimum and help everyone involved stay on task.
BBB recommends the following tips when looking for school-related items, either in person or online:
In-person shopping. Most retailers have dropped mask mandates, but some pharmacies or local stores may still have them. Supply chain issues could also impact shopping. When getting ready to shop, it's a good idea to contact the store ahead of time if you have questions about hours, policies, or to see if supplies are in stock.
Research big ticket items. Whether your children are learning in-person at school or online from home, technology has come to the forefront over the past two years. When buying new equipment, check with your child's school to learn about any technical requirements and determine if any changes are necessary to the home's high-speed internet.
Before purchasing an expensive laptop, tablet or another computer accessory, research the brands, warranty, customer reviews and prices at various stores to make sure the best deal can be had. Also, look up the retailer's reputation on BBB.org.
Shop smart with sales and tax-free weekends. While it appears that Georgia no longer offers a tax-free weekend, Tennessee's has just kicked off. It officially started at 12:01 am Friday, July 29th and ends at 11:59 pm on Sunday, July 31st. You can buy clothes, school supplies and other items without paying sales tax, but there are limits on cost as well as other guidelines.
For clothing-related purchases, the state will recognize general apparel that costs $100 or less per item, such as shirts, pants, pairs of socks, pairs of shoes, dresses, etc. It does not include Items such as jewelry, handbags, or sports and recreational equipment.
For school supplies, the state allows school and art supplies with a purchase price of $100 or less per item, such as binders, backpacks, crayons, paper, pens, pencils, and rulers, and art supplies such as glazes, clay, paints, drawing pads, and artist paintbrushes.
The tax-free break doesn't apply to school and art supplies that are individually priced at more than $100 and items that are normally sold together cannot be split up to stay beneath the $100 maximum.
For computers, the tax-free weekend applies to personal use computers with a purchase price of $1,500 or less, including laptop computers and tablet computers.
Related items that aren't part of the tax break include storage media, like flash drives and compact discs, individually purchased software, printer supplies and household appliances
While you're shopping, compare prices between different retail stores, save coupons, sign up for email alerts and redeem any cash-back or rebate offers. This will help get the best deals and stay within budget.
Ask for discounts. Many stores and software companies offer discounts. Some are available to students with either an ".edu" email address or a student ID. Others may have a discount for signing up for marketing materials or you can check online to see if retailers are offering online coupons and discounts. (Make sure the sites offering the coupons are truly affiliated with the retailer). It doesn't hurt to ask, even if you don't see a deal advertised at the store.
Consider buying in bulk. If meeting in person, some teachers may ask parents to buy bulk items (paper towels, tissues, wipes, hand sanitizer) for the entire classroom to use throughout the year. Compare lists with other parents and see if costs can be shared.
For more information, you can contact your BBB at 423-266-6144 or visit the new BBB Back to School HQ on BBB.org.
Michele Mason is president of the Better Business Bureau in Chattanooga