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6 pro tips for back-to-school shopping

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Posted at 2:44 PM, Jul 09, 2015
and last updated 2015-07-09 17:44:10-04

“Back to school.”

Legend goes that whenever those words are whispered, a group of kids shudder.

Of course, back-to-school shopping may have a similarly disconcerting effect on parents. Shelling out cash for a stack of school supplies that may never get used or an entire new wardrobe is enough to stress anyone out.

Check out ShopSmart for all the latest circulars.

Here are six tips to make this year’s back-to-school shopping trip a breeze:

Shop during your state’s tax-free period

Seventeen states offer a break from sales taxes on certain items — often including clothing and computers, up to a certain price.

There are 12 states that include school supplies among items that shoppers won’t be taxed for. They are listed below, along with the dates of each state’s sales tax-free period:

Alabama (Aug. 7 - Aug. 9)
Arkansas (Aug. 1 - Aug. 2)
Florida (Aug. 7 - Aug. 16)
Georgia (July 31 - Aug. 1)
Louisiana (Aug. 7 - Aug. 8)
Missouri (Aug. 1 - Aug. 3)
New Mexico (Aug. 1 - Aug. 3)
Ohio (Aug. 7 - Aug. 9)
South Carolina (Aug. 7 - Aug. 9)
Tennessee (Aug. 1 - Aug. 3)
Texas (Aug. 7 - Aug. 9)
Virginia (Aug. 7 - Aug. 9)

Click here to see a full list of 2015 sales tax-free periods across the United States.

Use coupon apps to easily save at stores

A quick search of the App Store or Google Play Store will reveal a slew of free coupon apps that take most of the work out of saving money on shopping trips. Some notable ones include RetailMeNot, Coupons.com and SavingStar. All of these apps will automatically notify shoppers of deals at stores hit during back-to-school shopping.

Check general school supply lists online to get started early on shopping

Waiting for area schools to issue school supply lists might put eager parents past the best dates to get deals. Websites such as School-supply-list.com break down common supply requirements based on a student’s grade. This makes it easy to knock out some of the essential supplies before a rush of parents his the stores in late August.

Donate last year’s school clothes

Part of back-to-school clothes shopping is replacing the outgrown outfits from last year. Consignment shops like Goodwill or Salvation Army offer tax-deductible donations that will be re-sold to others. Stores like Once Upon a child will pay cash for used kids’ clothing.

Parents who are interested in helping their local school raise funds while also getting rid of old clothing can use Schoola. The program gives money to a donor’s local school in return for gently-used clothing that is shipped via mail.

Use a blow dryer to break in new shoes

Parents online swear by this unconventional method of breaking in a new pair of shoes. To avoid new shoe blisters, have the child put on thick socks and the new shoes before blow-drying the tightest-fitting sections of the shoe. Apparently the hot air will help stretch the shoes for maximum comfort.

Prepare for an awesome locker

For parents of children that are old enough to have a locker, look into inexpensive ways to make sure it stays organized.

Easy-to-install locker shelving can keep a locker looking cool and devoid of paper piles for less than $30. Also, a magnetic mirror can go a long way in helping kids look their best before class.

Clint Davis is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @MrClintDavis.