By Sharon Omahen
University of Georgia
Georgia parents should plan now for an upcoming holiday that's designed to help them save money. Known as the sales tax holiday, the tax-free purchase days are set to begin this year at 12:01 a.m. on Aug. 3 and end at midnight Aug. 6.
Save on computers, supplies, clothes
"Georgia's tax-free holiday is a time when parents can easily save 6 to 7 percent on major purchases, like home computers," said Michael Rupured, a financial expert with the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension. "The savings can really add up and make a big difference to family budgets. It's also the biggest shopping weekend outside the Christmas season."
A single $1,500 or less purchase of a personal computer and/or related items is exempt. Modems, printers, speakers and nonrecreational software are also tax exempt during the holiday period.
The exemption also applies to articles of clothing and footwear with a sales price of $100 or less per item. Clothing accessories, like handbags and jewelry, are not exempt.
"Clothing is one of the largest expenses related to back-to-school shopping," Rupured said. "New tennis shoes for school are as much a tradition in America as cake on your birthday."
Clothing allowances give kids control
If your child has specific preferences for shoes and clothing items, Rupured recommends giving him a clothing allowance.
"Kids tend to be much more thrifty with their own money than with their parents' money," he said. "It's a valuable learning experience for them, too, as they quickly figure out it's better to get two or three less expensive items than one brand-name item."
General school supplies with a sales price of $20 or less per item are also tax exempt during the holiday. If you don't have the school's official supply list, Rupured recommends just buying standard items like pencils, paper and glue.
To save money on supplies, Rupured also suggests taking an inventory of the supplies your children have left over from last year. "If the crayons aren't broken and the binder is still in good shape, you don't have to buy new ones," he said.
Make a list and shop sales
Once you've narrowed down the supply list to the items you truly need to buy, stick to your list.
"This may sound easy, but it's not when your kids see all the latest school items on display," he said. "My advice is to leave your children at home when you go supply shopping so they won't beg you to buy everything in sight."
Rupured recommends comparing prices before making final purchases. But he doesn't suggest trying to save as much money as possible on school supplies. "Being a smart shopper doesn't always mean buying the least expensive items," he said. "Sometimes cheaper isn't better."
When it comes to buying a new book bag, Rupured says to wait until a week or so after school starts. "If you can convince your child to wait, virtually every book bag goes on sale," he said. "You can find many for one-fourth their original cost."
Many high quality book bags are guaranteed, so make sure you file away receipts and related paperwork for the future, Rupured said.
Above all, teaching your children to take care of their school supplies is one of the best money-saving moves you can make. "Getting them into this habit will save you a lot of money throughout the years," he said.
(Sharon Omahen is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)