While Oklahoma students enjoy the last few weeks of summer, another school year is fast approaching, and that means the annual back-to-school shopping frenzy is on the very near horizon. 

The good news for parents and caregivers is there is no need to bust the budget or lose a grip on that one last nerve.

“Doing some advanced planning will add an important element of organization to your shopping. It’ll also help control your spending and your mood,” said Cindy Clampet, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension assistant state specialist, family resource management.

Begin by creating a budget for the amount the family wants to devote to school-related purchases. Factor in costs such as instrument rental, school pictures and sports participation.

Also, incorporate possible expenses associated with graduating seniors and the college application process, as well as transporting the children to school each day. 

After establishing the budget, family members should research their options based on the amount of funds available, then come to an agreement on all purchases.

“Today’s technology makes it easy for consumers to find exactly what they want and in a price range that works for them,” Clampet said. “Just as important, negotiating the budget in advance gives families a chance to resolve any disagreements before getting to the store, where parents and caregivers may feel pressured to give into demands while in public.”

If the children change their minds or want to add to the shopping list once they get to the store, parents should help them make decisions that will allow them to stay within the established and agreed upon budget.

“Try not to go shopping if you’re feeling rushed or stressed,” Clampet said. “You don’t want to wait too late, either, or take someone who is already upset or in a bad mood because under these types of circumstances you could end up overspending falling short of what you wanted to accomplish during your shopping excursion.”

However, families should pay attention to sales as well as the Oklahoma Tax Commission’s annual statewide Sales Tax holiday, which allows shoppers to purchase certain clothing and shoes free of state, city, county and local municipality sales tax.

This year, the sales tax holiday is set for Aug. 4-6.

Even with a break on sales tax and strict adherence to a budget, some may struggle to cover back-to-school costs. For assistance in those cases, check the nearest county Extension office for a possible list of community organizations offering supplies for free or at a reduced price.

Finally, families may consider building anticipated school expenses into the overall household budget as a wallet-friendly strategy that also can cut down on parents’ stress level.

“Tally all your expenses from this year, divide that amount by 12 and begin reserving that much money each month to put toward next year’s costs,” Clampet said.

Tax Free Holiday

• Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s annual sales tax holiday will begin at 12:01 am on Friday, August 4, and end at twelve midnight on Sunday, August 6.

Certain clothing and shoe purchases are exempt from sales tax for this time period only. Qualified items are exempt from state, city, county and local municipality sales taxes.

Retailers are required to participate and may not collect state and local sales or use tax on most footwear and clothing that are sold for less than $100 during the holiday.

For more information and answers to common questions on the sales tax holiday, as well as a listing of sales tax exempt items, persons interested may visit Oklahoma Tax Commission website at www.tax.ok.gov.

• Arkansas

Beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday August 5, and ending at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday August 6, the State of Arkansas will host its sales tax holiday allowing shoppers the opportunity to purchase certain School Supplies, School Art Supplies, School Instructional Materials, and clothing free of state and local sales or use tax.

All retailers are required to participate and may not charge tax on items that are legally tax-exempt during the Sales Tax Holiday. Additional information may be found online at http://www.dfa.arkansas.gov.

• Missouri 

In Missouri, the Sales Tax Holiday begins at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 4, and runs through Sunday, Aug. 6.

By state law, the sales tax holiday begins on the first Friday in August and continues through the following Sunday. Certain back-to-school purchases, such as clothing, school supplies, computers, and other items as defined by the statute, are exempt from sales tax for this time period only.

Information for cities, counties, and districts not participating in the 2017 Sales Tax Holiday, 2017 Rate Tables, and 2017 Rate Cards will be updated and posted prior to the start of the 2017 Sales Tax Holiday event at http://dor.mo.gov/business/sales/taxholiday/school.

• Kansas

Many states have annual sales tax holidays, during which certain items the state wants to promote the purchase of (like school supplies, emergency preparedness supplies, or energy efficient appliances) may be purchased sales tax free. Kansas, however, does not currently have any scheduled sales tax holidays.