MARTIN COUNTY - While many avid shoppers are looking forward to stocking up on clothes and school supplies during the three-day tax holiday that starts Friday, Lydia Wilkinson is nearly done.
A frugal mother of two, Wilkinson has been searching for the best deals on collared shirts and school supplies throughout the year. Yet Wilkinson still plans to partake in the tax-free shopping that begins at 12:01 a.m. Friday and ends at 11:59 Sunday.
"I take advantage of the tax break especially for the more expensive items like shoes," Wilkinson said. "If the sales are good, I also hope to finish getting everything on the school supply lists."
It's the third consecutive year that Florida has had the back-to-school, tax-free shopping holiday after a two-year hiatus. But unlike the 10-day long tax break in 2007, we have just three days to get the kids ready for the new school year and buy ourselves some essentials.
Last year, the state raised the spending caps per item. Instead of a $50 limit on clothing and footwear, now the maximum is $75 each. For school supplies, the limit is $15 or less per item, up from $10 an item.
Here are some tips to help you save even more during the second-biggest shopping event of the year, second to the winter holidays:
• Follow the general rules of Black Friday, such as coming up with a game plan and a budget.
• Know what is tax-free and what isn't. Bring the list of items with you.
• Bring the sales circulars with you. Many stores will match competitors' advertised prices on the same merchandise. Show the advertisement and competitor's coupons to store employees. They might match the price if it is the identical item.
• Do the math. There are some items that you might not want to wait until the tax holiday to purchase, such as limited quantities of notebook paper. If the sales tax is negligible, it might be worth giving up the minor potential savings.
• Be patient. The stores will be crowded and checkout could take longer than usual.
• Exchange it. If the store is out of a size or a color you want, see if they will let you exchange the item for the right size and color once it's in stock.
• Save your receipts and check stores' return and price-adjustment policies. If an item you bought goes on sale within the week or two after, some stores will credit you the difference.
• Stock up on notebook paper and other essentials during the back to school shopping season to avoid having to pay full price in the middle of the school year.
Remember, in a few weeks, most of the school supplies and collared shirts will be on clearance. For young children, buy the next size in clothes when the price is right. Many stores don't carry school uniform items all year long.
Do your homework and you can have your most successful back-to-school shopping season. And if you end up with too many great deals, consider donating to a school supply drive.
Kelly Tyko is a columnist for Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers. This column reflects her opinion. For more on finding bargains on the Treasure Coast, follow her blog at TCPalm.com/bargainista. Contact her at 772-409-1324 or email@example.com
TAX-FREE CLOTHES, ACCESSORIES
Starting at 12:01 a.m. Aug. 3 and ending at 11:59 p.m. Aug. 5, the state is waiving sales tax on clothes, footwear and certain accessories selling for $75 or less. Tax-free clothing and accessory items include:
Barrettes and bobby pins
Bathing suits, caps and cover-ups
Boots (except ski boots)
Bowling shoes (unless rented)
Caps and hats
Cleated and spiked shoes
Coats and wraps
Diapers, diaper inserts (adult and baby, cloth or disposable)
Fishing vests (non-flotation)
Formal clothing (unless rented)Garters and garter belts
Girdles and corsets
Gloves (including dress, garden, leather and work gloves, but not for sports)
Graduation caps and gowns
Gym suits and uniforms
Hair nets, bows, clips and bands
Hosiery, including support hosiery
Martial arts attire
Overshoes and rubber shoes
Raincoats, rain hats and ponchos
Shoes (including athletic)
Shoulder pads (for dresses, jackets, but not for sports)
Ski suits (snow)
Sleepwear, nightgowns, pajamas
Sports uniforms (except pads, helmets)
Suits, slacks and jackets
Swim suits and trunks
Ties (all neckties)
Tuxedos (excluding rentals)
Uniforms (work, school and athletic, excluding pads)