UACES Facebook BACK TO SCHOOL: Shopping smart
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BACK TO SCHOOL: Shopping smart

By Lisa Lakey
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Fast Facts:

  • Tax-free back-to-school shopping days Aug. 1-2
  • Smart shopping strategies can ease the bite of back-to-school buys
  • Make a list and compare local sales

(420 words)

LITTLE ROCK --Backpacks, school supplies, new shoes, uniforms or the latest outfits. Back to school shopping can take a huge bite out of your monthly budget. Laura Connerly, assistant professor and extension personal finance educator for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture recommends using smart shopping strategies to cut costs and reduce the burden. 

“Plan ahead,” Connerly said. “Make a list of everything you’ll need. In addition to regular school supplies, you may also need items such as lunchboxes, art supplies, sports equipment or clothing. Making a list helps you avoid impulse buys.” 

She also suggests comparison shopping. Check local sales ads to find the best prices. Often, dollar stores will carry supplies cheaper than larger retail stores. She also said second-hand stores are great resources to look to for gently used backpacks and school clothes or uniforms. 

Coupons are also a classic-turned-trendy way to save a few dollars on back to school shopping. The Sunday newspapers contain coupons, as do store flyers and some store and free online coupon sites. 

“Combine coupons with other sales and discounts when possible,” Connerly said. “There are also coupon apps and store apps. Consumers need to be really careful about online sources of coupons and coupon apps. Some of these services charge a fee, and for most consumers, it’s not worth the cost. Check to make sure it’s a reliable resource before downloading or providing any financial or personal information.” 

And, most importantly, mark your calendars for the best time to shop this season. 

“Shop during the first weekend of August,” Connerly said. “Tax exempt categories include clothing, clothing accessories or equipment, school supplies, school art supplies and school instructional materials. Clothing and shoes must be less than $100 per item to qualify. Clothing accessories or equipment must be less than $50 per item to qualify.” 

This year’s tax holiday is August 1 and 2. A detailed list of exempt and taxable items can be found through the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration’s website 

For many families in Arkansas, these tips and strategies still won’t cover the financial burden this time of year brings. Help is always available for those who need it. Check your local newspaper for community events such as a “Back to School Bash” that provides supplies to community members. 

“Find assistance if you need it,” Connerly said. “If you qualify, and if you need it, check with schools and community service agencies in your local area to find out if they provide school supplies.”

For more information on managing family finances, contact your county extension office or visit


The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.    

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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
(501) 671-2126

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