Gearing Up For Back to School

Shopping Tips and Other Resources

Back_To_School_17Summer’s winding down, which means it’s time to gear up for back to school. Whether your kids are starting at a new school or returning to a familiar one, this time of year provides some unique challenges for military families. The cost of school supplies and new clothes can add up quickly too, but there are lots of things you can do to minimize expenses and ease the pressure.

MILITARY DISCOUNTS

Whatever you’re shopping for – clothes, school supplies, phones, computers, or anything in between – there’s probably a retail outlet with a military discount to help you save money. Some only apply to active-duty service members, so keep in mind you may have to bring proof of service beyond just your military ID. Many online retailers also offer free shipping to military post offices and overseas Armed Forces addresses. This list is a good place to start, but don’t be afraid to ask when you walk into a store. Many stores don’t promote such discounts outright, but will offer one if you ask.

SALES TAX HOLIDAYS

Many states offer tax-free weekends at some point in the year, which allow shoppers to buy certain items completely free of state sales tax. The dates, approved items and maximum dollar amounts vary greatly from state to state. Items may range from basic school supplies to clothes and even computers. You can check this list to see if your state participates and get the full details. Many of these deals happen in early August during the back-to-school shopping rush.

PRICE MATCHING

Price matching is a smart tactic for just about any shopping venture. If you find a deal online, but don’t want to pay for shipping, many major retailers like Walmart and Best Buy offer price match guarantees. Many people might not realize that military exchanges do the same thing. The Army and Air Force Exchange, the Navy Exchange and the Marine Corps Exchange all offer price matching.

OPERATION HOMEFRONT

Operation Homefront is a nonprofit organization that works to support military families dealing with deployment as part of their mission to strengthen the overall community. Each summer they run a campaign called the Back-to-School Brigade, which is a nationwide initiative to collect school supplies for military children in need. They partner with more than 5,000 Dollar Tree and Deals stores to set up collection barrels for donations. Once gathered, donated supplies are then distributed at official events across the country. In 2016, they distributed more than 25,000 backpacks filled with school supplies. This year, the collection period is July 5 through August 11. You can find more information about the program and its events on their website

FREE TUTORING

Tutoring is an out-of-pocket expense that many families – military and civilian alike – simply can’t afford. Thankfully, Tutor.com partners with the DoD’s MWR Library Program, Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program and Navy General Library Program, to offer free tutoring to military kids of all ages and grade levels. They even have an app! You can download it on Android or iPhone.

If you have older kids studying for college prep exams like the SAT and ACT, eKnowledge offers free training programs for service members and their families. To date they’ve helped over 250,000 students.

OTHER RESOURCES

Here are a few other school-related programs that support military kids:

  • Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC) has tons of resources for military families, ranging from transition consultations for kids starting at a new school to parental workshops and even programs designed to help teachers develop their professional skills.
  • Blue Star Books is a program created by Blue Star Families to empower military children through the power of reading. They donate books to individual families, DoD schools, public schools in military markets, and libraries all across the country.
  • Our Military Kids provides grant money and donations to empower military kids with sports, arts, and other enrichment programs while parents are deployed or recovering. Learn more, apply for funding, or make a donation today!

Have another shopping tip or a valuable resource we didn’t cover? Let us know in the comments below.

Jake Butler

About the author: Jake Butler

Jake Butler is a staff writer at Pioneer Services who understands the challenges facing modern military families. He writes informative and entertaining pieces about military life, financial education and everything in between. Follow Jake on Google+.

Contact: Jake Butler

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