Who remembers the old Staples back-to-school commercial with the dad joyously collecting supplies while his sullen progeny trudge along behind him as “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” plays in the background?
It’s the perfect metaphor for the annual craziness that is back-to-school preparation. Planning for a new school year, anticipating challenges and adventures ahead, and reconnecting with friends after summer break can be fun. But making sure your little scholars have everything they need to succeed can also be daunting.
The State of Florida makes it all a bit easier on our wallets with a back-to-school tax holiday, suspending sales tax on certain essentials for a few days. With this year’s back-to-school tax holiday upon us, it seems like a good time to help you get your kids all geared up for school with as little headache as possible for you.
Tax Holiday Changes for 2016: What’s In, What’s Out, What to Know
First of all, you should acquaint yourself with what’s included in the back-to-school sales tax holiday and what isn’t. The Florida Department of Revenue has this handy guide outlining just what counts and what doesn’t for this year. Some important things to note:
- The 2016 back-to-school tax holiday spans one weekend: Friday, August 5 – Sunday, August 7.
- Eligible clothing items must be less than $60.
- Eligible school supplies must be less than $15.
- Unlike previous years, personal computers are not eligible in 2016.
You’ll find a pretty extensive list of eligible and ineligible items at the link above. I suggest printing it out and using it as a reference while you plan your shopping strategy.
What You Have, What You Need
Before I ever start shopping, I’m assessing. My son attends a school that requires uniforms, so clothing is easy enough for me, but I still want to see what we can keep and what might need replacing. Last year we bought a few extra red and black shirts in larger sizes in case we needed them. They never got used, so I’m ahead on new pieces for this year. I do know some of his pants have some wear on them and will need to be replaced. Those go on my list.
Since I’m a boy mom, shoes are relatively simple. Comfortable, easy access, and cheap. We found a style he likes and we just keep buying it in the next larger size. No need to buy more right now.
As for supplies, your teacher will likely have made a list of items your child should have for the classroom that will be available on the school’s website. I’ve also seen copies of the lists available at stores like Walmart and Target. Our school has an orientation the night before school starts so we can meet the teacher and see the classroom, but also so we can stock up his cubby with his supplies.
Class is in Session for Savings
I am a couponer. Pleased to meet you. When I’m planning a shopping trip like the back-to-school tax holiday, looking for a few coupons will always be part of my routine. But you don’t have to go to extremes to amp up your back-to-school savings. In Hillsborough County, where I live, the tax holiday means I’m saving 7% on my back-to-school purchases right off the bat. Taking advantage of sales and throwing in a coupon or two can help shave off even more.
You don’t have to wade through every sales circular to find the best prices, though. Check out one of the many money-saving websites that post sales and coupon matchups to get a handle on all the great deals. I have two local Tampa Bay area resources I highly recommend in TrueCouponing.com and AddictedToSaving.com. Both are already posting deals that you can use in planning your back-to-school shopping extravaganza.
I hope this helps you go out into that great big world armed with your lists, your coupons and your sales, and take on the annual back-to-school stock-up with as much glee as the dad in the Staples commercial. If the kids aren’t quite as enthusiastic as you are, that’s okay. They’ll be prepared for school, and you’ll be the conquering hero.