School supplies are needed, money is tight and time is running short! It’s the end of August and the new school year is upon us. If you have K12 to college-aged students in your household, you know how school supplies can add up and cause a financial strain. Statistics show that parents spend an average of $60-$100 per student for kids under eighteen years of age, and even more for each college student. (The yearly books-and-supplies estimate for the average full-time undergraduate student at a four-year public college is about $1,200.)
If you live in a state that offers tax-free weeks or weekends for back to school shopping, August is actually one of the best months to purchase the basics like shoes, clothes and supplies. Tax-free weeks or weekends are supported by more than a dozen other states, but unfortunately, Wisconsin is not one of them. There are bills which have been proposed at our Wisconsin Capitol to spare parents the 5.5% sales tax, but none have passed yet. Individual stores in Wisconsin may offer a tax-break incentive, but with no statewide collaboration, it’s really difficult to know who is offering the incentive, and when. Your best option is to approach back to school shopping with a strategy to prevent overspending.
Here are 10 tips that may save you money while back to school shopping in Wisconsin:
- Always budget for back to school expenses. (Reference last year’s amount to structure this year’s budget.)
- Sometimes drug and grocery stores have the best deals, so watch for common items throughout the summer during regular shopping trips.
- For the rest of the supplies; don’t buy until you know what you need. (Schools will provide a list.)
- Watch your Sunday paper and local advertisements for coupons and incentives.
- Go online before you head out. Find out what the average prices are for each item so you know if you’re getting a good deal or not.
- Try to get all of your supplies at one or two stores. (Gas and time cost money too!)
- Buy in bulk if you can. (Team up with another parent if needed.)
- Recycle and reuse where possible.
- Wait until school starts. If you’re already running short on time, buy only the very basic needs and wait a bit longer for the rest. (Stores that start to clearance after school starts to make room for holiday items.)
- Low income people should seek assistance. There are resources for finding free or reduced supplies. (Such as The United Way, County Volunteer Services, Churches, Optimist Clubs, Schools, Hope Houses and more.) Start by a simple search online for “free school supplies + your city.”
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