The Coupon Lady: Getting ready for back-to-school shopping

Believe it or not, it's time start looking for deals on back-to-school shopping.

Last week, I mentioned that school starts early this year in Georgia.


Columbia County begins the new school year Aug. 7, Burke County on Aug. 8 and Richmond County on Aug. 13. In South Carolina, Aiken and Edgefield counties begin Aug. 20.

If you haven’t already, start taking stock of your children’s back-to-school needs. You can check out your school’s Web site for supply lists to find out what child will need. If your child is starting a state-funded Pre-K program, call the center and ask if that information is available before the open house.

Meanwhile, take a look in your child’s closet. Does your child need shoes, jackets, clothes or backpacks? Start checking the fit of items now to so you won’t be surprised later. Once you know what you need, start scanning the weekly ads.

Toys R Us had a special last week for 20 percent off any backpack priced over $12.99. There was also an offer for a free lunch kit valued at $9.99 when you buy any backpack priced at $12.99 or more. That’s $22.99 in name brand merchandise for just $10.39 plus tax, a 55 percent savings. This example is why it is crucial to look at sales ads every week to get a jump on early sales. If your little one insists on having his or her favorite cartoon character on a backpack, chances are you can find it and still get a bargain.

If you plan on waiting until the last minute, there will be a tax-free weekend in Georgia on Aug. 10 and 11, ending Saturday at midnight. According to the Georgia department of Revenue, it applies to “clothing and shoes priced under $100 an item, school or classroom supplies with a value of less than $20 per item, and a single purchase of a computer and computer related accessories valued under $1,000. The exemption does not apply to clothing accessories, jewelry, handbags, umbrellas, eyewear, watches, watchbands, cellular devices, furniture, computer-related accessories designed for recreational use, items used in a trade or business, or for resale.”

South Carolina will have a sales tax holiday Aug. 3-5. The 6 percent state sales and use tax, and any applicable local sales and use tax, will not be imposed on “clothing, clothing accessories (e.g., hats, scarves, hosiery, and handbags), footwear, school supplies (e.g., pens, pencils, paper, binders, notebooks, books, bookbags, lunchboxes, and calculators), computers, printers and printer supplies, computer software, and bath wash clothes, blankets, bed spreads, bed linens, sheet sets, comforter sets, bath towels, shower curtains, bath rugs and mats, pillows, and pillow cases,” says the South Carolina Department of Revenue. “The sales tax holiday, however, does not apply to sales of jewelry, cosmetics, eyewear, wallets, watches, furniture, rental of clothing or footwear, items for use in a business, or items placed on layaway or similar deferred payment and delivery plans.”

For many families, July means the start of many school activities such as football, cheerleading and band practice.

For most households, it can be very tempting to turn into the drive through when you are spending extra time away from your home. However, you can keep restaurant spending at bay with a little planning. One way is by making freezer meals. In just a few hours, you can make several meals at once that will help on busy days. When you are ready to eat, just thaw and follow baking direction. If you are unsure of how to begin, you can attend local freezer meal workshops through companies such as Wildtree or Dream Dinners.

If you are a do-it-yourself cook, you can do an Internet search for freezer meal Web sites or blogs for recipes, or you can buy cookbooks that focus solely on freezer meals. Fix, Freeze, Feast by Kati Neville and Lindsay Tkacsik is available to download on Kindle and Nook and is in paperback.

Another way to make dinnertime easy is to use a meal planning service, such as eMeals. For $5 to $7 a month, you get a weekly shopping list and recipes for seven dinners. The food costs from $70 to $140 a week depending on plan and store. Several options are available, including organic, gluten-free, portion control, low-fat, low-carb, vegetarian and store-specific plans. The store plans include seasonal meats and produce to take advantage of sales. You can use coupons on staple goods to lower costs even further. A little planning now can mean big savings later.

Take the class

Are you a business, church group, or social group and want to share your passion for savings with fellow members? We are accepting requests for free coupon classes to be held at your location or event. For more information, contact Carol Gunter at The Augusta Chronicle at (706) 823-3318 or



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