“Save” and “free” in one title? Music to my ears! Like just about every mama I know, I love a deal, and there are some great ones to be had during our sales tax holiday (a.k.a., tax-free weekend).
This year’s sales tax holiday is Friday, August 11th through Sunday, August 13th. That means from 12:01 A.M. on Friday through 11:59 P.M. on Sunday, you don’t pay taxes on eligible items. Sales taxes in our area are 8.25%, so tax-free weekend means you’re saving that much on everything you buy. It’s an automatic discount. You might think I’m crazy, but it adds up. First, I like a bargain, and frankly, I’d rather have that money for something else.
What’s included during the sales tax holiday? A general rule of thumb is most clothing, footwear, school supplies, and backpacks priced less than $100. The Comptroller has a list of clothing items that are included, as well as school supplies. Backpacks, lunch boxes, glue sticks—they’re all on there. So are uniforms. If your list is like mine, you’re buying a million glue sticks, so you might as well save a little on them. (Inquiring minds want to know: What do they do with all of those glue sticks anyway?!)
By the way, even if your little ones aren’t ready to haul a backpack to school, you can still save money: diapers are included. Yes, diapers are tax free, as are baby clothes. Hello! Time to shop! But keep in mind: this isn’t your traditional, leisurely stroll through Target or any other store you enjoy. This is war. Get in, get what you need, and go. Have extra time? Grab that cute top. It’s tax-free, and we mamas deserve some wardrobe sprucing, too.
On that note, I do use tax-free weekend to get basics for the whole family: socks, underwear, running shoes, pajamas, work-out clothes, bras—all of the things you don’t think about replenishing throughout the year or put off. Once again, in my book, every little bit of savings helps. Besides, don’t you remember that awesome excitement of shiny, bright new clothes and new school supplies? Ahh, memories of Trapper Keepers and days gone by…
Of course, retailers know the holiday and use it to lure us into their stores, so there are oodles of sales and specials during the weekend. If you’re a comparison shopper, it’s your time to shine: check out the ads and see where you can find the best deals. Oh, and if you’re a thrifter or second-hand store shopper, tax-free applies to those stores, too. That’s right—you can score an even better deal than usual, so hit up your favorite spots.
If you’re ready to jump in and save some dough this year, remember your Ps: prepare, plan, and patience. Like any other battle, shopping is easier when you have a strategy. Don’t go into your mission unprepared! And a good attitude goes a long way. We’re all in this back-to-school battle together, so ditch the scowl and save some bucks!
Tips to Help You Score During Tax-Free Weekend:
- Know your lists. That means the school supply lists and the “what my kids need” lists. Carry a copy of the school supply list with you. I prefer a hard copy so I can cross through what we’ve found, but your phone works, too. Back-to-school for us means underwear, socks, shoes, and all sorts of clothes, along with a backpack, lunch bag, and more, so I make a list of those things as well. Know what your kids need, what their school allows, their sizes, and their likes/dislikes. Standing in the middle of Le Target’s school supply bins is not the time to discuss Star Wars vs. Minions vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles backpacks. Settle on some options before you’re out in the midst of the shopping battle.
- Know your stores (a.k.a., shop before the weekend). In other words, browse and know who has what. Makes sure you check out their ads and specials for the tax-free weekend, too. Then, make a plan! Know what you’re getting where and make a list for each store. Consider office supply stores for school supplies (you can get some great deals). And if you have gift cards, coupons, Cartwheel deals (I heart Target!), loyalty cards, etc., get them out and use them. If you’re military, don’t forget those military discounts. Old Navy, Children’s Place, Addidas, and many of the stores at the outlet malls offer military discounts. Always ask, and save that dough to buy more glue sticks.
- Go early. Yes, tax-free weekend is busy. ALL back-to-school shopping is busy. I’m sure there’s a random minute between 2:00 and 3:00 A.M. when glassy-eyed moms aren’t roaming the supply aisles looking for the right 100-page, wide-ruled notebook, but let’s face it: everyone needs school supplies. On tax-free weekend, the early mama avoids crowds. Get up, get out, and hit it. Coffee is always your friend (but it’s not tax-free, unfortunately). Even the outlet malls in San Marcos are tolerable early, and hint: they extend their hours on tax-free weekend. We’ve gone, gotten our loot, and left as the parking lot was filling up.
- Shop online. Yes, online purchases are also exempt. You can click to your heart’s delight and fill your virtual cart while lounging in your PJs, and as long as you hit “purchase” after midnight on August 11th, you’ll automatically save sales tax (and avoid the crowds). I know a mom who fills her cart and saves it, then buys when she gets up on Friday. When my local store didn’t have the size I needed, I shopped online FROM THE STORE and placed my order. (And then decided to shop online for the things I could—why waste time looking for Star Wars underwear when you can have it delivered to your door?)
- Buy ahead. If you know you’re going to be asked to donate more glue sticks throughout the year (do they eat them or what?!), buy now and stash them away. Or if you know that your child will lose/run out/need more than what’s on the supply list, just go ahead and buy while you can. Prices are better now—you won’t find school supplies on sale again until next August—there’s no tax, and you can’t always find supplies once school starts. (Stores have to make way for Christmas displays in September, don’t you know?!) And if you score a great deal, help those kids/families who need an extra hand to manage the expense of back to school: buy extra and donate to a school supply drive.
Go forth and save! Anything I haven’t thought of? Help a mama out and share your tax-free and back to school shopping tips and savings strategies in the comments below!