Back-to-school costs are skyrocketing. Here's how to save with tax-free holidays and more

Seventeen states are offering sales tax holidays this season.

August 05, 2022, 1:25 PM

August marks the beginning of school for millions of families. But this year, back-to-school shopping may be more stressful than ever before. With consumers already too familiar with increasing rates of inflation, over half of all families are concerned that it will impact their school supply costs, according to Deloitte.

It's no surprise that this year will be the most expensive back-to-school shopping season on record. According to a survey from the National Retail Federation, families are expecting to pay anywhere from $860 per student to $1,200 depending on their child's level of education. For families with students in elementary through high school, the estimated cost is $864, up $15 from last year.

For those looking to save, there are some strategies to help beat inflation and cut costs.

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Buy in bulk with friends

One tactic that saves consumers boatloads is to buy in bulk. That means going to Costco, Staples or an online retailer and buying larger quantities of products for a lower per unit price. For example, you can get a box of 300 pencils for $29.99 on Amazon, giving you a pencil that is five or six times cheaper than writing utensils that are sold in smaller packages.

But beware of overbuying. Consider pairing up with a neighbor or friends to split the bulk order, so you don't buy more than you need and still score supplies like pens, pencils, notebooks or paper at a fraction of the price.

Reuse and swap with others

Quantity isn't the only way to save money. Knowing the industry can help influence how you shop. For example, 64,000 tons of textbooks get thrown away each year. Facebook Marketplace and Facebook's Free and For Sale sections often showcase the best cheap and free school supplies in your area. Not only will you be saving cash, you'll also be saving the environment. A win-win!

Shop during tax-free weekends

Finally, get all caught up on when your state's tax day is and what products are exempt from sales tax.

Not sure how to find that information? "Good Morning America" has you covered.

MORE: What you need to know about inflation

State-by-state list of tax-free holidays for back-to-school supplies in 2022

  • Alabama (already passed; ran from July 15-17)
  • Arkansas (Aug. 6-7)
  • Connecticut (Aug. 21-27)
  • Florida (July 25 through Aug. 7)
  • Iowa (Aug. 5-6)
  • Maryland (Aug. 14-20)
  • Massachusetts (Aug. 13-14)
  • Mississippi (already passed; July 29-30)
  • Missouri (Aug. 5-7)
  • New Mexico (Aug. 5-7)
  • Ohio (Aug. 5-6)
  • Oklahoma (Aug. 5-7; only clothing items are exempt from sales tax)
  • South Carolina (Aug. 5-7)
  • Tennessee (already passed; July 29-31)
  • Texas (Aug. 5-7)
  • Virginia (Aug. 5-7)
  • West Virginia (Aug. 5-8)

In addition, Illinois is offering a reduced sales tax of 1.25% on school supplies from Aug. 5-14.

For other ways to save, check cash-back apps such as Ibotta and Rakuten for deals. For computers and electronics, look for refurbished models, buy from certified sellers, check return policies and comparison shop.

The bottom line is this: 2022 is expected to be the most expensive school shopping experience to date. When gas prices, grocery prices and rent are all similarly expensive and some experts predict an extended recession in 2023, every dollar counts.

Keep the above tips in mind, and you might just make it out with a little cash left in your wallet.

This story was originally published on July 25, 2022.

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