Published on 07/07/09

Shop during the tax-free holiday

By Sharon Dowdy
Georgia’s tax free holidays are July 30 through Aug. 2, and thousands of parents will no doubt take advantage of the tax savings. University of Georgia experts say you can save a lot more than the 6-percent state sales tax by taking advantage of the sales tax holidays.

During this tax-free window certain purchases will be exempt from state and local sales taxes. Clothing, personal computers and accessories, and school supplies are on the tax-free list.

"The only reason not to buy your needed items during the tax- free days would be your personal finances," said Michael Rupured, UGA Cooperative Extension consumer economics specialist. "If you have to pay with a credit card instead of cash, the interest on your credit card balance can be enough to offset any savings."

Rupured offers some tips to help you to save time, money and frustration:

Know what is and isn't exempt.

During the tax-free holiday July 30 through Aug. 2, school supplies are tax exempt if they cost $20 or less per item. So are clothing and footwear at $100 or less per item. But accessories such as purses, jewelry or watches aren't.

For computers and accessories for personal use, the tax-free limit is $1,500 for a single purchase. Rupured urges consumers to take a tally of their computer-related items before heading to the register.

“If the purchase exceeds $1,500, the entire purchase is not exempt from the sales tax,” he said. “Aside from that limitation, practically anything needed to set-up and operate a computer at home is exempt.”

Do a little research.

Besides knowing what items are tax exempt, check advertisements and flyers for sales. Look for manufacturers' coupons for items you plan to buy.

If you want to buy a computer, find out which features and options best meet your needs. Compare prices from different stores, too.

Shop with a list.

Write down what clothing and school supplies each child needs. If computer needs are on your list, you may want to buy hardware at one place and software and other accessories at another to avoid going over the $1,500 limit.

With gas prices as high as they are, it may also make sense to plan the route you will take.

Leave the kids at home.

Most of the time, you'll spend less if they're not around. If you need to bring a child along to try on clothing, consider making two trips. Go by yourself to buy school supplies, computers and accessories. And while you're out, note the best clothing sales and return to those stores later with the kids.

Bring plenty of patience and a positive attitude. The stores, parking lots and roads around shopping centers will be crowded. Checkout lines will be long.

If you don't enjoy shopping, the sales tax holiday weekend might be a good time to stay home.

(Sharon Dowdy is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

Sharon Dowdy is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.