Working 4 You: Back to School Shopping Savings May Not Be Biggest on Tax Free Weekend

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Tax free weekend is right around the corner, but is it the best way to save on your shopping list items? Little Rock Mommy’s chief blogger takes KARK on a shopping trip to give you the tips to stretch your dollars farther as you buy for back to school. 
 
Mom Alma Hernandez works at cracking the code to getting her kids what they need for back to school. 
 
“It is kind of challenging for me to buy them all they need,” she said. “Usually, I can’t buy it all at once and I have to use this paycheck for one child, and the next paycheck for another.” 
 
Jennifer Vaughn is the blogger behind Little Rock Mommy, and back to school shopping is somewhere she always hopes to help families save. 
 
“Whatever you do, do not pay full price because there should be a coupon that goes along with these sales at this time of year,” she said. 
 
Walking us through Staples, she shows us how to shop like a pro and save with some tactics she’s picked up in her years of scouring sales and combing through coupons. 
 
First off, Jennifer said, is to identify your big buys. Most of the time it’s going to be backpacks, lunch boxes and electronics. On backpacks, you want to look for brands that are high-quality and will last. Then, you can find a deal to pair it with. 
 
“The cool thing about Staples is they have, if you buy a backpack, you can get 25 percent off other school items,” she said. “There are backpacks here that are currently $20 off. That’s a good discount, and when you pair that with the 25 percent off, you can see the savings start to pile up.” 
 
You can offset more expensive items, like backpacks with penny or quarter deals for as many items as you can get. In Alma’s case, one paycheck could help stock up on pencils, erasers and paper for all of her kids by exploiting those sales, instead of just one. 
 
“It may be that you can buy three for the price of one,” Jennifer said, pointing to a pack of erasers as an example. “This is a five pack for 25 cents. Originally it’s two dollars. There’s no reason not to get enough for all of my kids, plus have some on hand as extras when they run out mid-year. The prices are never going to be as good as they are right now.” 
 
According to Jennifer, she rarely opts to go outside the bargain buster areas for the back to school stapes like pencils, pens, erasers, glue and crayons. 
 
“You have to pay attention to the counts in the packages, but I rarely pay attention to brands on those items. A lot of times, kids are going to lose pencils, they’ll break crayons,” she said. “Why spend more on those items for a specific brand?”
 
The second tip she offers up is using buy more deals to get more, especially buying for more than one kid that will last beyond mid year.
 
“Binders are a big place to use these deals. My kids’ school wants them to have multiple binders in multiple sizes. The deals where you buy 3 binders and get them all at a reduced price can be great for that,” she said. “Or, if they only need one each but you have three kids, you’ve just knocked an item off the list for all three. Plus, it’s on sale and you get that additional 25 percent because of the backpack purchase here.” 
 
If you’re like Alma Hernandez, who prefers to shop in-store, still compare prices online while you’re there. Being in store gives you the opportunity to feel the product in your hands, but if the prices are better online with free shipping or sales, that might be the best bet. That’s especially true for those big items.
 
Electronics like computers aren’t covered by tax-free weekend, so deals now (in-store or online) could be better than fighting the tax-free weekend that won’t get you additional savings on those items. 
 
“That’s where you want to balance that tax free weekend deal. It may not be the best of savings,” Jennifer said. 
 
The savings from sales taxes, without additional coupons, is around 10 percent — depending on your city and county. According to Vaughn, clothes and shoes, especially one clearance or with coupons, can be one way to truly save during the tax free weekend. 
 
“Those are going to be a good saving on that tax fee weekend,” she said. “Shoes can be expensive, especially if you’re buying multiple types for multiple kids. Combine that with any sales you can find, especially if you can get out and shop early to beat the rush, and you could find some good deals.” 
 
Little Rock Mommy’s blog includes a weekly price comparison list to show you where the lowest prices of the week for certain items will be, but shoppers have to decide if multiple stops will be worth the bigger savings for them. You can find a link to the Back to School section, here. You can find this week’s lowest priced deals chart here
 
“It’s about convenience, too, but if you really want to get the best deals, you need to go to three or four different stores,” Vaughn said. 
 
While Alma is going to continue watching for specials, she likely won’t be braving the crowds during tax-free holiday. She may start trying to shop sooner and more often to serve up something affordable that makes everyone happy. 
 
To follow this story and all of Marci Manley’s coverage, click here for Facebook or here for Twitter
 
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KARK Working 4 You is committed to highlighting issues that are important to Arkansas. If you have a story that needs to be covered, call Reporter Marci Manley on the Working 4 You Tipline at (501) 340-4448 or email at working4you@kark.com.

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