Make the most of back-to-school shopping

July 30, 2008

Tips On Shopping During Tax-Exempt Days
By Donna L Montaldo

NATIONAL ( - Many states offer tax-free shopping during certain times of the year to motivate people to go out and shop in their local stores. Back-to-school and pre-holiday periods are popular times to hold such events. Many of us head out the door to take advantage of the savings, often coupled with extra incentives and promotions offered at the individual stores. It is a great time to shop, especially if you develop a plan of attack. Here are tips to help you make your plans to get the most out of tax-exempt shopping days.

Know What is Tax Free

Knowing what kind of merchandise and how much you can spend on specific merchandise that is tax-free in your state will help you organize your list of items to buy and avoid disappointment in the checkout line. Print the state list out and bring it with you in case you run into an uninformed store cashier.

Compare Prices

  • There are several resources for comparing prices before you head out to the stores.

  • Check online at price-comparison sites such as

  • Look at your local stores web sites for advertised specials.

  • Check your local mall's web site for advertised and last minute specials.

  • Check the newspaper and individual store flyers.

  • Call the stores and ask if they are offering specials during the tax-free days.

  • Look online for printable coupons for your local stores.

Stay Focused - Make a List

Make a list in advance of the main items you plan on buying and what stores you plan to shop in to find the items. This will help you avoid bouncing from store to store and running out of time or energy to get those items which you really need.

Budget Your Money

Tax-free days are fun and we tend to get caught up in the hype and overspend. If you have a basic budget to work with, this will help you avoid buying more than you really need just because the items are tax-exempt.

Bring Your Ads

Many stores will match competitors advertised prices on the same merchandise. If you have an advertisement with you or a coupon to show to the store employee's, they may match the price if it is the identical item.

Check Extended Hours

Many stores and malls will be extending hours to accommodate the rush of shoppers during this busy time. Expect longer lines and plan accordingly. If a store opens early or closes later than the others, you may want to shop during the extended hours and avoid the crowds.

Go To the Bank Before You Go

If you prefer to use cash when you shop, do not depend on the mall money machines to actually have money. Busy times such as tax-free shopping days equal empty money machines.

Avoid Over Spending

Sticking to a plan, working with a list and doing price comparisons before you head out the door will help to keep the focus on staying within a budget. The temptation to buy more will be strong, but doing so will take away from the goal to shop smart. It is not how much can one buy, but how much of what is needed can one buy at a good price and without going over budget.