On August 20-22, 2010, Texans will observe the annual Tax Free Holiday. This “holiday” was established to help alleviate some of the financial burden families have heaped on them when performing their yearly back-to-school shopping ritual.
During the Tax Free Holiday, consumers do not have to pay sales tax on certain items. Eligible items include apparel, underwear, footwear and other miscellaneous merchandise (such as school supplies and backpacks) that students will need when they return to the classroom; providing those items cost less than $100. In the Houston Metropolitan area, that equates to about an $8 savings for every $100 spent. But is the exemption from sales tax more hype than helpful?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for saving money. I regularly clip coupons and always make a list before I shop, which I pretty much abide by. What’s more, I frequent budget retailers. I’m telling you, I know more about my neighborhood Walmart than the cashiers do. Even so, I absolutely refuse to step foot in a Walmart, Target, Marshalls and the likes during the Sales Tax Holiday. I simply will not participate in the mayhem associated with the annual event.
So why have I elected to not observe the Tax Free Holiday? Well, first of all, I hate crowds. Furthermore, I think it is virtually impossible to comparison shop with people all up on me. Secondly, I truly believe it is more beneficial to the retailer than the consumer, because it encourages shoppers to spend more than they would otherwise. And my people already spend way too much.
According to a citation in the September 2010 issue of Essence Magazine, “African-Americans and Latinos spend 35 percent more of their funds on visible goods, like clothing…than whites do.”
Instead of spending so much money upfront on back-to-school attire and supplies. I prefer to only buy enough clothes to get my children through the first week of school. Because once they get there and look around at what their peers are wearing, they may decide they don’t want to wear any of the things you spent my hard earned money and extremely valuable time purchasing. For me, this has become especially true now that I have a teenage son, whose growing so fast I can’t keep him in pants. It would be ludicrous for me to load up on pants that he might not even be able to wear at the end of the month. Plus, everything will be on sale the following week anyway. Even those $100 items that don’t qualify for sales tax exemption.
Now I have to admit that I was initially quite excited when they actually added school supplies to the list of tax free items. That was last year. And eager to save on something that should have been on the list from the get go, I got up early Saturday morning and hit the aforementioned Walmart, you know before the crowds hit the store. I spent well over $100 and was very content with my $8 savings. However, I found myself right back in the same store, the following week buying additional school supplies that my kid’s teachers said they needed. These were the items that were not listed on those standardized lists that they pass out at the stores or the ones you print off the Internet.
This year, I plan to shop smarter. I will send my kids to school the first day armed with a handy, dandy notebook and a pen (all they really need). Once their specific teachers inform them what supplies they need, then and only then, will I venture into a store and purchase school supplies.
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