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Be a smart shopper by purchasing school supplies on tax-free weekends

The back-to-school period can be a brutal one on finances. There are so many types of supplies you might need, from basics such as pencils and notebooks to high-end items such as computers and textbooks. It’s also a time for clothes shopping since the weather is close to cooling down. Thankfully, some states offer back-to-school tax exemptions to keep your costs down. Not every state has them, and their availability is limited to specific weekends and goods. Also, prepare yourself for how busy these time periods are. You aren’t the only one trying to save some cash.

Tax-free weekend basics

Tax-free weekends are available on a state-by-state basis, with only 18 states having them. Each of these states offers specific deals at specific times. For example, one state may offer a weeklong sale of clothing and school supplies, while another may only offer a two-day sale on emergency-preparedness items. Additionally, the tax-free discount only applies to state taxes. If your local government collects additional sales tax, you may still need to pay those at checkout.

Many of the available items also have price limits attached. For example, there may be a limit of $50 on school supplies. These limits apply to each item individually, not collectively. Using the same example, you could buy $100 worth of tax-free pencils if each pencil or pencil set you buy costs $50 or less.

Current and upcoming tax-free weekend details

Fifteen of the 18 states with tax-free weekends currently have deals or have deals coming up that will come in handy for school shopping. Here are those details. Two states (Alabama and Tennessee) have no more tax-free weekends this year, and Mississippi’s August tax-free weekend can’t be used to purchase school-related items.

  • Arkansas: From Aug. 5 to 6, clothing at a cap of $100 and school supplies with no cap are tax-free.
  • Connecticut: From Aug. 20 to 26, clothing and footwear at a cap of $100 are tax-free.
  • Florida: From July 24 to Aug. 6 and again from Jan. 1, 2024, to Jan. 14, 2024, back-to-school supplies at a cap of $50, clothing at a cap of $100 and computers at a cap of $1,500 are tax-free. Additionally, from Sept. 2 to 8, work gloves at a cap of $25, flashlights and bags at a cap of $50, toolboxes at a cap of $75 and test equipment at a cap of $100 are tax-free.
  • Iowa: From Aug. 4 to 5, clothing at a cap of $100 is tax-free.
  • Maryland: From Aug. 13 to 19, clothing and footwear at a cap of $100 are tax-free.
  • Massachusetts: From Aug. 12 to 13, tangible personal property at a cap of $2,500 are tax-free. This does not apply to vehicles, food, alcohol, gas, some utilities, tobacco or marijuana.
  • Missouri: From Aug. 4 to 6, school supplies at a cap of $50, clothing at a cap of $100 and computers at a cap of $1,500 are tax-free.
  • Nevada: From Oct. 27 to 29, National Guard members can make most purchases, with no cap, without paying any taxes.
  • New Jersey: From Aug. 26 to Sept. 4, instruction materials and school and art supplies with no cap and computers at a cap of $3,000 are tax-free.
  • New Mexico: From Aug. 4 to 6, school supplies at a cap of $30, clothing at a cap of $100, computer equipment at a cap of $500 and computers at a cap of $1,000 are tax-free.
  • Ohio: From Aug. 4 to 6, school supplies at a cap of $20 and clothing at a cap of $75 are tax-free.
  • Oklahoma: From Aug. 4 to 6, clothing at a cap of $100 is tax-free.
  • South Carolina: From Aug. 4 to 6, school supplies, clothing, computers and similar supplies are tax-free with no cap.
  • Texas: From Aug. 11 to 13, school supplies, clothing and backpacks, all at a cap of $100, are tax-free.
  • West Virginia: From Aug. 4 to 7, school supplies at a cap of $20, clothing at a cap of $125, sports equipment at a cap of $150 and computers and tablets at a cap of $500 are tax-free.

Best back-to-school supplies

a light gray backpack

The North Face Vault Everyday Laptop Backpack

If you get the right backpack, it can last you for years. This is a top model for that purpose, with a roomy capacity, exterior pockets and comfortable straps. It also has a chest strap for extra support when you’re carrying a full day’s worth of school gear.

Sold by Amazon

a box of 30 wooden Ticonderoga brand pencils, pre-sharpened

Ticonderoga No. 2 Pencil Set

The classic No. 2 pencil is often required for completing tests, so every student should have a few in their backpack just in case. This set includes 30, so you can be someone’s hero if they ask you for a pencil.

Sold by Amazon

a set of 6 college ruled spiral notebooks. Colors include black, light blue, green, purple, red and yellow

Mead Spiral Notebook Set

Spiral notebooks like these have long been a gold standard when it comes to school, whether it’s for taking lecture notes or for writing out STEM problems. This set comes with six and each is in a different color for easy organization.

Sold by Amazon

four 3-ring binders, measuring 2 inches wide each, in the colors purple, green, light blue and hot pink

Samsill Plant-Based Three-Ring Binder

You’re going to collect pages and pages of handouts from your teachers over the school year. Having someplace to keep them organized and safe is a must. These come in several sizes and can be bought in sets of varying sizes.

Sold by Amazon

Apple iPad (10th Generation)

Apple iPad (10th Generation)

Nowadays, most textbooks are available digitally. Being able to stash an iPad in your backpack instead of several books makes a long day much easier. Plus, it makes for a great ultralight computer with the right accessories.

Sold by Amazon

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Jordan C. Woika writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.