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It's worth it to shop on tax-free days
By Sharon Omahen
University of Georgia

Georgia's tax free holidays are Aug. 2-5, and thousands of parents will no doubt take advantage of the tax savings. University of Georgia financial experts say you can save a lot more than the 6-percent state sales tax by taking advantage of the sales tax holidays.

Retailers that sell clothes, computers and other back-to-school items now say the tax-free holiday weekend is as big or bigger than the after-Thanksgiving sales, said Michael Rupured, a UGA Cooperative Extension consumer economics specialist. Competition for your shopping dollars on the tax-free days means that many retailers will offer special sales during the week.

"The only reason not to buy your needed items during the tax-free days would be your personal finances," Rupured said. "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 Aug. 2-5, 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.

A single purchase of $1,500 or less of personal computers and related items is tax exempt. But if it's more than $1,500, it isn't tax exempt. Get more details at the Georgia Department of Revenue Web site (www.etax.dor.ga.gov/salestax/holiday).

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

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

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