UTD Experts Offer Parents Back-to-School Tips


Backpacks hanging on hooks

Making the most out of your
back-to-school budget

The sales tax holiday in Texas this year is Aug. 9-11. In most cases, if a state is participating in a tax-free weekend, you can also shop online tax free.
During the holiday you can buy most footwear, clothing, school supplies and backpacks — each priced less than $100 — and skip paying sales taxes, and, there is no limit to the number of qualifying items you can buy.
Dr. Daniel Rajaratnam, clinical professor of marketing in the Naveen Jindal School of Management, said taking advantage of the holiday can be a great way to save, if the shopper is smart about it.
“Buying in stores is not always the best deal, so check out websites such as Amazon for items like school supplies and backpacks,” Rajaratnam said. “You may find the same item for a lower cost.”
Rajaratnam suggests these tips for getting the most out of your back-to-school budget:

  • Research before shopping. Check circulars, download retailers’ apps and save coupons before going shopping.
  • Check your inventory. See what extra supplies you have from last year and what is in good condition and can be reused.
  • Use your smartphone. Use apps like Google Shopper to scan bar codes and find the best price for a product at nearby stores.
  • Follow your child’s school supplies list and stick to it.
  • Stock up. If you find a good deal, purchase clothing, school supplies and shoes that you will need throughout the year. Some stores offer bigger discounts for spending more. “Kids outgrow their clothes and shoes very quickly, and this way you’ll save money on items you would be purchasing later in the year.”
  • Head to the stores early or late. Research shows midday is the most crowded time at retailers.
  • Know what deal is best. Because most stores will not feature any sales or additional discounts during the holiday, it might be smarter to wait on certain purchases until the store has a big sale. “Tax-free weekend saves you 8.25% in Texas, but if you’re needing several pairs of jeans and there’s a 30%-off sale the next week, that’s a much better idea.”

Find the list of qualifying items for this year’s sales tax holiday.
–Brittany Magelssen
Food in matching containers

Plan ahead to keep healthy eating habits during back-to-school rush

It’s time to get back into the groove of school schedules, and planning ahead can benefit your family’s health and wellness. Mornings may become more hectic this season as you’re getting breakfast on the table or on the go.
Taylor Tran, registered dietitian and employee health program manager at The University of Texas at Dallas, says organizing meals and snacks ahead of time can help ensure you and your family are eating a healthy diet. Here are a few of her tips for back-to-school eating habits:

  • Pack balanced lunches at night and store in a certain spot in the refrigerator so you can grab and go in the morning. Include a serving of protein, whole grain, fruit, vegetable and a fun snack like low-fat yogurt or dark chocolate nibs. If you pack lunch at night, you have more time to prepare and eat a healthy breakfast.
  • Shop for breakfast essentials such as eggs, fruit, yogurt, low-fat milk, high-fiber cereal, whole-grain breads and protein bars for those busy mornings. For a quick and healthy breakfast, enjoy cereal (with less than 10 grams sugar/serving) with low-fat milk and berries and/or Greek yogurt. Make sure to balance the breakfast with a protein and carbohydrate for lasting fullness and energy.
  • Prep meals and chop veggies on the days when you are least busy. Having all the foods ready to go will make cooking a lot quicker. You are also more likely to choose fruits and veggies if they are ready to eat. Placing nutritious snacks in plain sight makes everyone more likely to pick them up.
  • Start a “snack station.” Clear a pantry shelf to store healthy snacks like protein bars, dried fruit, high-fiber cereal, applesauce and jerky. Create a “snack section” in the refrigerator where you can keep fruits and veggies with dips and yogurt and/or string cheese.

“Make lists, organize items and have a plan. Before you know it, you and your family will have a stress-free and nutritious eating routine,” Tran said.
–Robin Russell