The Key to Shopping Tax-Free

Here in Alabama, tax free weekend starts this Friday, August 3rd, and will run through August 5th. While that gives you an instant savings of 4-12% off your school supply purchases (depending on where you live in Alabama), there are a few things you’ll want to consider before heading out. Here are a few tips to help your weekend shopping go a little more smoothly. . .
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      1. Shop early!

        It shouldn’t look like Black Friday out there this weekend, but you’ll definitely see lots of folks taking advantage of the tax savings available. If you can, beat the rush and shop as early as possible, and make sure to take your list with you as you go.

      2. Know which items are tax exempt during the tax free holiday in your state.

        Here in Alabama, find a list of included tax free items HERE before shopping. If you’ll be in another area during tax free weekend, look for information on tax free holiday inclusions at the Department of Revenue website for your state, and see a complete list of states that are offering tax free holidays this year.

      3. If possible, shop in counties which also offer a tax break during the tax free holiday.

        Each county in Alabama chooses whether or not they want to participate in the tax free weekend, which means on top of the 4% statewide sales tax savings you’ll receive over the weeekend, you’ll also get an additional 2-4% savings by shopping in a county that participates in the tax free weekend. Here in North Alabama, Madison, Limestone, and Morgan County are all included, but you may want to also take a peek at other counties participating over HERE.

      4. Know your best back-to-school prices.

        Even though you’ll save on sales tax during the tax free holiday, you won’t necessarily get the very best price of the season on specific items. Tax savings add up to 4-9&, however if a store’s sale will save you 50-85% (which happens frequently during the back-to-school season!), you’ll want to skip paying full price on an item and save more than just a few pennies on each dollar. Not sure how to find those best back-to-school prices? Take a look at these back-to-school sales that are updated several times throughout the week to get a better idea of what you should be paying for specific school supplies.

      5. Consider purchasing electronics if these are items you plan to purchase in the near future.

        Photo by Matthew Downey via Wikimedia Commons

        While getting a great deal on filler paper, crayons, or mechanical pencils isn’t all that rare in the back-to-school-savings-hunt, saving on high dollar electronics doesn’t come around very often. Items like computers, printers, printer ink, and even paper are included in the tax free sale (up to $750 per item here in Alabama), so shopping during the tax free weekend is a great way to get a deal on something that you normally can’t bargain shop for. (Hint: iPads are included in the tax free weekend, which I found out last summer two weeks AFTER paying full price for my iPad!)

      6. If there’s something very specific that you need to check off a supply list, this is the time to buy it.

        It’s rare for office supply stores or local supermarkets to deeply discount very targeted items that your child may need for school this year, so this is the time to grab those and benefit from some savings. All three of my kids classes require very specific binders for school this year, which won’t be found during a back-to-school sale. So at least by shopping during tax free weekend, I’ll save a little on those products as well.

      7. Use coupons, of course!

        Whether you’re shopping for clothing, shoes, school supplies, or even printer paper, there are many coupons available to help maximize your savings. Look up current retail coupons before you shop, and you’ll want to also watch for coupons on specific school supply products.

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Do you have other tips on saving during the upcoming tax-free weekend? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments!