School News
Expert: Do homework before back-to-school shopping
By Paul Schattenberg, Texas A&M
Aug 10, 2017
Print this page
Email this article

COLLEGE STATION — Back-to-school shopping can be an expensive proposition, especially if consumers don’t spend a little time “doing their homework” by researching, prioritizing, budgeting and choosing the right time to shop, said a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.

“Consumers should approach school-supply shopping much the same way they do grocery shopping,” said Joyce Cavanagh, AgriLife Extension specialist in family economics, College Station. “Find out what you already have and then prepare a list of what you need and try not to deviate from it. Figure out how much you can spend and stick to the budget. Avoid impulse buying.”

She said if parents take their children shopping with them, they should try to “tune out” any whining and begging and explain to them why you won’t be buying items they don’t need.

“This can be difficult, but it may also be a good teaching moment in that parents can show their children the difference between items they want and items they need, as well as how adults have to budget their money,” she said.

Here are some other tips from Cavanagh on how to be a more cost-conscious back-to-school shopper:

— Check through the drawers and closets and take inventory of supply items already on hand.

— After doing the inventory, prepare a list of needed items and prioritize them.

“Many schools provide students with a list of supplies they will need for the school year,” she explained. “Keep to the list and don’t buy unnecessary items. If last year’s backpack or lunch bucket is still usable and in good shape, maybe a new one is a low priority for the shopping list.”

— 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.”

— Shop at the right time. Many supplies are on sale before the back-to-school shopping rush begins. Check to see if that sale price with tax will be the same or less than buying 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. By waiting you can save a lot of money on some items, but this may also limit your selection.”

Cavanagh said an often overlooked opportunity is for consumers to buy school supplies during a sales tax holiday.

“Texas is one of the states that offer sales tax relief on a large number of school supply items during specific dates established by the legislature. This year, the official Sales Tax Holiday has been set for Aug. 11-13.”

For more information, go to

“This law exempts most clothing, shoes, school supplies and backpacks under $100 from sales and use taxes,” Cavanagh said. “This 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.”

Cavanagh also reminded back-to-school shoppers that 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 resell the books when you’re finished with them.”