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16 states are offering no sales tax on school supplies as average spend nears $300 per child

Your state might give you a break on sales tax for back-to-school shopping.

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It might just be the last week of July, but schools are opening soon, and so are parents' wallets. According to consulting firm KPMG, the average spend per child on back-to-school items is $268 for the 2021 school year, up 9% from last year. What's more is the National Retail Federation (NRF) estimates families will spend a total of $849 on school supplies.

This school year is projected to be more normal as the lion share of students will be back in a physical classroom. In response, consumers are saying they're likely to spend more this year, specifically on products such as footwear, clothing and electronics.

To help parents' save on these expenses, 16 states are offering sales tax holidays, giving consumers a little break on the cost of these back-to-school supplies.

Here are the states participating, and which purchases qualify.

States offering sales tax holidays on back-to-school items

In most states, retailers will automatically waive the sales tax at checkout, as long as the items meet the qualifications. However, it's never a bad idea to call ahead to the store to ensure they are honoring the holiday.

Here are the states that are participating, and details on the qualifying items.

Sales tax holiday chart

State Dates of the holiday Items included in the sale
AlabamaJuly 16-18 Clothing ($100 or less per article, excluding accessories and protective or recreational equipment); single purchases of computers, computer software and school computer supplies ($750 or less, excluding purchases for commercial use); noncommercial school supplies ($50 or less per item); noncommercial purchases of books ($30 or less per item); Note: Not all counties/municipalities participate in the sales tax holiday
ArkansasAug. 7-8 Clothing and footwear (less than $100 per item); clothing accessories and equipment (less than $50 per item); school supplies, school art supplies and school instructional materials
ConnecticutAug. 15-21 Clothing and footwear (less than $100 per item, excluding clothing accessories and protective or athletic clothing)
FloridaJuly 31 - Aug. 9 Clothing, footwear, and certain accessories (less than $60 per item); certain school supplies (less than $15 per item); the first $1,000 of the sales price of personal computers and certain computer-related accessories (not for noncommercial home or personal use)
IowaAug. 6-7 Clothing and footwear (less than $100 per item, excluding accessories)
MarylandAug. 8-14 Clothing and footwear (less than $100 per item, excluding accessories)
MississippiJuly 30-31 Clothing and footwear (less than $100 per item); school supplies (less than $100 per item)
MissouriAug. 6-8 Clothing ($100 or less per item, excluding clothing accessories); school supplies ($50 or less per item); computer software ($350 or less per item); computers / computer peripheral devices ($1,500 or less per item); graphing calculators ($150 or less per item)
New MexicoAug. 6-8 Clothing and footwear items (less than $100 per item, excluding accessories, athletic or protective clothing or footwear); school supplies (less than $30 per item); computers, e-readers that have computing functions and tablets ($1,000 or less per item); certain computer-related items ($500 or less per item); book bags, backpacks, maps and globes (less than $100 per item); handheld calculators (less than $200 per item); Note: Retailers are not required to participate
OhioAug. 6-8 Clothing ($75 or less per item); school supplies ($20 or less per item); school instructional material ($20 or less per item); Note: Items used in a trade or business are not exempt under the sales tax holiday
OklahomaAug. 6-8 Clothing and footwear (less than $100 per item, excluding accessories, special clothing or footwear primarily designed for athletic activity or protective use that is not normally worn except when used for athletic activity or protective use, or to the rental of clothing or footwear)
Puerto RicoJuly 29 - Aug. 4 School uniforms and materials
South CarolinaAug. 6-8 Clothing and certain clothing accessories; footwear (excluding rentals); school supplies; computers, printers, printer supplies and computer software (excludes items used for commercial purposes); certain bed and bath items
TennesseeJuly 30 - Aug. 1 Clothing (less than $200 per item); school supplies (less than $200 per item); school art supplies (less than $200 per item); electronic devices (less than $3,000 per item)
TexasAug. 6-8 Clothing and footwear (less than $100 per item; excluding accessories, athletic or protective clothing, and rentals of clothing or footwear; backpacks used by elementary and secondary students are included); most school supplies (less than $100 per item)
VirginiaAug. 6-8 Clothing and footwear ($100 or less per item); school supplies ($20 or less per item)
West VirginiaJuly 30 - Aug. 2 Clothing ($50 or less per item); school supplies ($50 or less per item); school instruction material ($20 or less per item); laptop and tablet computers ($500 or less per item); sports equipment ($150 or less per item)

5 ways to get deals on school supplies

School supplies are not cheap. According to the NRF, Americans will shell out $37.1 billion this year on back-to-school spending for K-12 and and additional $71 billion of college students. But don't break into a sweat as there are ways to save money on school supplies.

Wholesale stores

Consider shopping at your local wholesale store, including Costco. They will likely have better deals than a retail store, and since you can shop in bulk, you can stock up on school supplies for the entire year.

Consider buying more expensive items second hand

For laptops and other expensive items, consider buying used. There are always used laptops, graphing calculators and other supplies for sale on eBay, Amazon and other online platforms.

Local dollar stores

If you're shopping for a younger student, or someone who isn't particular about their supplies, consider going to the dollar store. Simple supplies such as pens, pencils, folder and erasers can be found year round at your local dollar store for much less than what retail stores charge.

Buy discounted gift cards

If you plan on shopping at one or two specific retailers, consider buying a discounted gift card from third-party gift card reselling platforms, such as Raise and GiftCardGranny. People can sell their unused gift cards for cash on these marketplaces, allowing you to save money on back-to-school purchases you were going to make anyway.

Use shopping portals or cash-back apps

You can save money with a few simple clicks by using either a shopping portal or cash-back app during your shopping experience.

Shopping portals give you the opportunity to earn additional rewards or cash back at hundreds of online retailers. In order to earn the rewards or cash back, you must start in the portal and then click through to the retailer's website. You can see what your retailer is currently offering in terms of rewards using a shopping portal aggregator like Cashback Monitor.

A cash-back app is exactly that, an app that gives you cash back based on your purchases by simply scanning your receipts from major retailers. Ibotta, a popular cash-back app, is currently offering $20 worth of school supplies for free.

Best credit cards for back to school shopping

Back-to-school shopping isn't a specific bonus spending category on credit cards, however, there are plenty of retailers where you can maximize your earnings with either a cash-back or travel rewards credit card. Also, if you are planning on spending a significant amount of money on one or more purchases, you may want to consider opening a new credit card to earn a credit card sign-up bonus.

Here are the best credit cards for back to school shopping for each type of purchase:

Apple products: Apple Card

The Apple Card is a great way to save money on all purchases, but especially if you plan on buying Apple products. You can earn 3% cash back on all Apple purchases, along with a myriad of other retailers like Uber, Walgreens, Nike, Exxon and Mobil gas stations and Panera when you pay with Apple Pay. All other purchases made with Apple Pay earn 2% cash back and purchases made with the physical card earn 1% cash back.

Online shopping: Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card

Amazon is an excellent option if you're looking to do all your back-to-school shopping without the hassle of leaving your home. And in some cases, it can be even cheaper than visiting an in-person retailer.

By using the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card, you can earn 5% cash back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market, 2% back at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores and 1% back on all other purchases. On top of that, new cardholders can earn a $200 Amazon.com gift card upon approval with no spending requirements.

The card does not have an annual fee, but you need an Amazon Prime membership to apply for the card.

Supplies and clothing: Target RedCard™

If you prefer shopping in-person at your local Target, the Target RedCard is a great way to save money on all your back-to-school supplies. You will save 5% on all Target purchases (online and in-store), receive free two-day shipping on all eligible orders and get an additional 30 days added onto Target's 90-day return policy.

Large purchases: U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card

If purchasing flexibility is your priority and you want to avoid expensive credit card interest charges, consider the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card. It's one of the best 0% APR credit cards currently available, as it offers cardholders 0% interest for the first 20 billing cycles, on balance transfers and purchases. After that, it is a 16.74% - 26.74% variable APR. The 0% introductory APR applies to balance transfers made within 60 days of account opening.

The card does not have an annual fee, but it doesn't earn any rewards or cash back.

Information about the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card has been collected independently by Select and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer prior to publication; if you purchase something through Select links, we may earn a commission.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.
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