The Best Time to Find Amazing Back-To-School Deals

By on July 29, 2013

It seems like the school year starts sooner every year. With tax holidays, sales flyers and special promotions to keep track of, it’s tough to make sure you’re saving money when filling up your shopping basket with back-to-school clothes, electronics and more. Be sure to check out our Back-to-School Hub updated multiple times daily with the latest deals.

Back to school comparison shop onlineWith thirteen years of experience under our belt, we have seen countless back-to-school sales and promotions. In order to give you an accurate forecast on when you will be able to get the best deals on back-to-school shopping, we compiled historical data on all back-to-school sales and deals.

Specifically, we looked at the popularity of each deal within our community, the volume of deals within a product category and the average price of those deals. On a monthly basis, our data set included between 4,100 to 4,400 deals. That’s approximately 17,000 deals over the four-month period between July and October.

While we have provided a handy guide below to help figure out when to start shopping for  back-to-school products, here are a few of the highlights:

1. When shopping for back-to-school clothing and shoes, there’s no better month than August. Specifically, prices of apparel deals are about 18 percent lower than September and October. Shoes are discounted at an even larger margin, approximately 30 percent cheaper than waiting until September or October.

2. If you can wait until early October to purchase a new laptop for your student, you will end up saving nearly 10 percent over prices in July and August. Obviously, waiting until the Black Friday shopping period would offer even greater savings, but your student would be without a laptop until the end of November. Keep an eye on Amazon, Newegg, Dell, HP and Lenovo for the best deals.

3. Mid to late September is the best time to purchase mobile devices like smartphones, tablets and eReaders. Many manufacturers introduce new models prior to the fourth quarter, thus previous generation models are heavily discounted. Smartphones are a particularly good buy during September at Best Buy and Amazon, about 15 percent less than other back-to-school shopping months.

4. If you’re outfitting a dorm room or college apartment with home theater gear like televisions, headphones, media players or speakers, September is your best best. However, if you need furniture, kitchen appliances or tools for that first place away from home, it’s best to wait until October in order to save the most money. Of course, your college student will have to get by on cheap Craigslist couches and a handheld can opener until then.

Ben’s Bargains Back-to-School Shopping Guide

(Click to expand)

Ben's Bargains Back-to-School when to buy guide

Back-To-School Tax Holidays

In addition to saving money on product categories during specific months, many states have tax-free holidays that will allow you to purchase back-to-school items without paying additional taxes. However, be aware that there are specific restrictions on those holidays.

For instance, the majority of states limit the tax benefit to clothing purchases up to $100. If you live in a state like North Carolina, you can get huge tax savings on the purchase of a new computer due to the large $3,500 allowance. Check out the full list of restrictions below as well as a map of all participating states, the dates of the holiday and links to all tax agencies for further review.

back to school tax free states

State Total Days Items Included / Spending Limit Dates
Alabama 3 Clothing under $100
School supplies under $50
Books under $30
Computers under $750
August 2 – 4
Arkansas 2 Clothing under $100
School Supplies – No Limit
August 3 – 4
Connecticut 7 Clothing and Shoes under $30 August 18 – 24
Florida 3 School Supplies under $15
Clothing under $75
Computers under $750
August 2 – 4
Georgia 2 School Supplies under $20
Clothing under $100
Computers under $1,000
August 9 – 10
Iowa 3 Clothing under $100 August 2 – 4
Maryland 7 Clothing & Shoes under $100 August 11 – 17
Mississippi 2 Clothing & Shoes under $100 July 26 – 27
Missouri 3 Clothing under $100
Computers under $3,500
School Supplies under $50
August 2 – 4
New Mexico 3 Clothing under $100
Computers under $1,000
Computers equipment under $500
School Supplies under $30
August 2 – 4
North Carolina 3 Clothing under $100
School Supplies under $100
Instructional Material under $300
Computers under $3,500
Computer equipment under $250
Sports Equipment under $50
August 2 – 4
Oklahoma 3 Clothing under $100 August 2 – 4
South Carolina 3 Clothing
School Supplies
Computers
August 2 – 4
Tennessee 3 Clothing under $100
School Supplies under $100
Computers under $1,500
August 2 – 4
Texas 3 Clothing, Backpacks and school supplies under $100 August 9 – 11
Virginia 3 Clothing under $100
School Supplies under $20
August 2 – 4

 

More Back-to-School Shopping Tips

1. Take an inventory of what you already have. There’s no reason to purchase a duplicate of something that you purchased last year, as long as it’s still useful. For example, with computers, look to upgrade your current hardware over purchasing an entirely new laptop or desktop computer. Simply adding an SSD hard drive or more RAM can significantly boost the performance of your computer without breaking the bank. Simple tutorials for both upgrades can be found on YouTube.

Regarding basic school supplies, set up a central location within the home to collect and store all supplies. This will help you see what you have and restock as the school year progresses. Watch for major back-to-school sales at Office Depot, OfficeMax and Staples during the first half of August.

2. Figure out what you shouldn’t buy. Put yourself in the shoes of your student. Do they really need a printer or can they print off their assignments in a computer lab? Do they need a digital camera or will the camera in their smartphone suffice? Do they really need a USB flash drive or can they simply use a service like Dropbox to share data between computers? Are the majority of school assignments going to be submitted digitally? If so, reduce the portion of your budget dedicated to office supplies.

3. Team up with other families for bulk purchases. Reach out to other families within your school’s community and talk about purchasing school supplies in bulk. Many times, warehouse clubs like Sam’s Club and Costco will offer great deals, but the quantity is too big for the traditional family. Joining forces with another family can cut down the cost even more and allow you to split up the supplies.

4. College students should investigate textbook rentals. The concept of textbook rentals are still relatively new and extremely helpful in order to avoid insane textbook prices at the college bookstore. While the go-to retailer is Amazon for physical textbook rentals, be sure to check out the Google Play store later this summer if your student has an Android device and wants to rent a digital textbook. Bookrenter.com is also another popular option for students.

5. For big ticket items, set up a deal alert. If you are shopping for something expensive like a laptop, let us do the work for you with a deal alert and send you an email notification when something hits your price point. With the 17,000+ deals we publish during the back-to-school period, we can definitely help you save money this year. You can also take a quick look at our Back-to-School Hub to see the best deals on any given day.

About Mike Flacy

By day, I'm the Editor-in-Chief for The CheckOut in addition to being the content manager for Steve's Digicams and High-Def Digest. During my free time, I love to write about pop culture, home theater, digital photography, social media, mobile technology and cool gadgets!

3 Comments

  1. Erv Dinh

    August 7, 2013 at 11:45 am

    Pretty awesome tips, thanks!

  2. Patrick

    September 6, 2013 at 5:40 am

    With today’s economy, more states should incorporate some tax free back to school items. Especially since it’s becoming more and more common for the schools to supply less in the form of education and supplies. With 3 kids starting to get into school, we are feeling the pain as well.

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    February 8, 2014 at 12:31 am

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