Why I Liberated Myself From The Tax-Free Holiday

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.

If you have a question or comment for Kimberly Clark, please send an email to authorkimberlyclark@yahoo.com



  1. Gina Carroll says:

    Okay, so I found myself in the Galleria yesterday. Not because it was Tax-Free Weekend, but because as part of my daughter's birthday, we three girls decided we would treat ourselves to underwear shopping.It was when we got halfway to the mall and hit traffic that we remembered the Tax-Free Weekend part.

    The street traffic was crazy. But nothing compared to the Galleria parking lot! INSANE! I was so annoyed! Normally, if I knew it was Tax Free Weekend, I would close myself in the house. And even if I decided to take advantage of the savings for school supplies, I would go to the 24 hour Walmart at 3:00 in the morning! I am just too old to fight a stranger over a pencil bag!

    Still, there we were in the mall with what felt to be the entire City, going through bins of draws and wondering what we were thinking!

    I agree with you, Kim. This is a nice idea– to provide a little savings for folks. But we all know that this is a marketing ploy to make us think that we are saving so much money so that we can spend more. Don't you think it is especially insulting that marketers refer to this as a “holiday”? Please! Did I get a day off of work?

    No, save your money and wait for the real sales. I know we need to boost the economy. But not by spending money we don't have. That's how we got here in the first place!

  2. Hmmm… I guess it's how you look at the numbers. According to the 2007 census data, whites, blacks and Hispanics spend about the same amount on apparel (blacks spending about 10% less), but the disparity comes in the family income; 53.9% of whites make more than $60,000 compared to 32.7% of blacks and 31.3% of Hispanics.

    I am a big comparison shopper too and love internet shopping and searching for that online coupon. It makes me feel like I happened on a secret discount.

  3. Gina Carroll says:

    I love a good bargain, myself, Allison. I get too caught up on shipping charges and credit card fraud to enjoy shopping online, though! But I work my online bookstore coupons like a champ!

  4. I didn't shop either here when we had tax-free shopping. I can usually shop better too when I am not crowded and in a frenzy!

    Following you back from MBC!

  5. I've never actually heard of a Tax Free Holiday, it's not something that happens in my neck of the woods. It sounds like a great time to save… but yes, I'm not a fan of crowds either!

    Thanks for stopping by, I'm following you now as well!

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