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Back to School Savings I Don’t Care About

Back to school shopping at TargetI don’t know the schedule in your neck of the woods but in five short days my kids go back to school. Oddly enough, for the most part they are looking forward to it. In a way so am I as it will mark the first time that I will be home alone as a stay at home dad. It’s going to be eerily quiet around the house but I’m anticipating that will benefit my writing.

Of course back to school means shopping. Ugh! That dreaded time when you realize the kids have grown two inches over the summer and the school pants that fit in May are now riding up their shins. And of course, the mile long supply list the school sent with all it’s specialty items has your mind spinning. What in the world is “Mod Podge” and where can I buy it?

Helping Consumers Save on Back to School

Some retail stores do a great job this time of year revamping and organizing their floor space to make it easier on the back to school shopper. Our two destinations – Target and Office Depot – had school specific zones where we could easily shop and pick up our items. And naturally they got the word out through advertisements on how we could save on back to school items at their store. Amazon does a great job of this as well, offering specials discounts on school items and free shipping for college students if you purchase items on their site.

Local and state governments also get involved to help consumers save a little bit of money during the back to school season.

The big deal in my state was the sales tax free shopping days that happened this past Friday and Saturday. During those two days shoppers were exempt from the 4 percent state sales tax and any local sales taxes on most school supplies, clothing, footwear and computer items. Add all that up and it could mean anywhere from 7 to 8 percent in total tax savings.

Any little bit helps, right?

I’ve got to be honest with you – and I’m a bit embarrassed about this being a personal finance blogger and savings advocate – I just didn’t care about the tax benefit the state graciously doled out. We did our supply list shopping the day before (Thursday) and the day after (Sunday) the sales tax holiday. Here’s why.

Back to School Equals Big Crowds

Perhaps this will sound odd for a man but I enjoy a quality shopping experience. Brightly lit and clean stores, organized merchandise, friendly and helpful customer service are all shopping related issues that appeal to me.

And I hate shopping in crowds.

Black Friday…forget about it. The weekend before Christmas or before school starts…no way. Sales tax free holidays on specific items…I’d rather not.

I’ve shopped in those situations before and don’t enjoy it at all. The crowded aisles…banging carts…frustrated shoppers…the lack of merchandise because it’s been scarfed off the shelves…no thanks, I don’t need any of that. Give me a peaceful, mid-week afternoon on any generic day of the year and I’ll be just fine.

Like what greeted us when I shopped with my kids at Target last Thursday afternoon, the day before sales tax free shopping kicked in. The picture above shows the gloriousness of our back to school shopping time. Not a soul in sight.

With free reign like that we were done shopping in no time.

And my mind was at peace while shopping, which resulted in me making some wise purchasing decisions (not buying just anything in order to get the trip finished because I was stressed out).

The Back to School Shopping Damage

In all, I spent $425.83 on non-clothing, back to school supplies – backpacks, lunchboxes and all – for my four kids. That resulted in a total sales tax of $24.10.

Perhaps if some bigger ticket items were being purchased on a sales tax free holiday like a computer, I’d bite and do some shopping. For me in this instance, the $24 spent on tax was well worth it for the chance to avoid the crowds and enjoy our shopping experience

Questions: Do you get a rush from shopping in crowds or do you avoid them? Would you wait to purchase an item on a sales tax free holiday? What is your ideal shopping experience? Do you enjoy any part of back to school shopping?

Next Post: All Work and No Play: The Dangers of Workaholism

Prior Post: 7 Financial Hurdles to Becoming a Stay at Home Dad

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally or believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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  1. I’m with you on dealing with the crowds Brian. I’d go through pretty much anything else as opposed to shopping in the crowds. I’ve come to appreciate the ability to go out during the middle of the day and get what I need and save time while at it. That said, my ideal shopping experience is at home on Amazon. 🙂

    • I need to do more through Amazon, being a prime member. But I love to see and touch before I purchase, which holds me back sometimes from shopping there.

  2. Crowded stores = awesomeness! (Caveat: one of our businesses is retail :))

    Seriously though, we took a family jaunt to Dick’s a few Sundays ago to pick up some shoes, cleats and assorted athletic gear. Turns out that the very next Sunday was a special “20% Off Day” for families with kids that attend our specific high school. Go figure!

  3. For the Holidays my wife and I typically take a day off mid-week and go shopping for the family to avoid the craziness. A much better shopping experience. Tax Free weeks are a nice benefit, but not worth fighting the crowds for.

  4. I can’t stand crowds, but I do shop Black Friday — just not at Toys R Us or Walmart or those big Black Friday stores. You’ll find me at CVS and Walgreens, picking up toiletries for pennies on the dollar 😉
    As for back-to-school shopping: We’ll be in that boat next year, so I suppose now is the time to get prepared for it — I like to stock up on supplies throughout the year.

    • My guess is CVS and Walgreens are not that busy on Black Friday? I can see that being a valuable shopping destination. I’d start saving now for school shopping next year. We do that – a little bit each month – so the cash is already available when the time comes to buy all the things we need.

  5. I don;t mind the tax holiday or shopping during this time of year, but maybe that is because I don’t have kids, so I can run in, get what I want and get out. My wife is in the market for a new laptop, so the tax holiday will save us about $50 on it. It’s not a huge amount, but it’s worth it.

    • Saving $50 is a good deal. And you probably don’t have to fight too many crowds in the computer section. That’s not as high a priority an item at this time of year.

  6. My father-in-law had a conniption a few years back because my mother-in-law decided to buy some back-to-school stuff in Utah while visiting us, so they didn’t advantage of Arkansas’ sales tax holiday. It would have saved them about $10, but he was seriously frothing at the mouth. How does that song go? God is great, beer is good, people are crazy.

  7. I don’t have kids, but I try to wait for Tennessee’s tax free back-to-school weekend to purchase new clothes. I also waited to buy a new computer. The 9.25% tax is brutal here! I’m not much of a shopper, so I don’t really have an “ideal shopping climate.” $425 for all four kids seems pretty reasonable, right?

    • That’s a big tax rate. With an amount like that I might consider waiting as well, especially to purchase something like a computer.

  8. I’m with you, Brian. I don’t like pushy crowds, backed-up dressing rooms or overwhelmed store clerks. I would rather pay the taxes to deal with an empty Target too! LOL! We haven’t started our back-to-school shopping yet, but we’ll need to start moving on it. The girl still find it fun, while Mom finds it exhausting. I bet you are looking forward to the peace and quiet of when the kids go back to school. Does it feel strange not to be preparing to go back with them?

    • Yes…it does feel strange. All my former colleagues are in pre-planning this week and my oldest has started volleyball practice. Very odd that I’m not there.

  9. I’m in total agreement with you here! We never rush to take advantage of sales tax holidays–both because of the crowds and because I hate shopping just to hit a sale. My husband and I dislike shopping crowds so much that we pretty much only shop on Friday evenings when no one else is at the stores! And, we do the rest of our shopping online to further avoid crowds :).

    • Online is a great way to go. I do some of that but also like to physically see/touch items before I purchase. Depends on what I’m looking for.

  10. I hate shopping in crowds. I simply will not do it. I can’t really stand lines of any sort and waiting to check out behind ten other shoppers drives me completely insane. Even one person in front of me and I go a little nuts!

    • “…waiting to check out…” And then when they take a minute to dig in their pockets or purse for the correct change to pay a bill…ugh!

  11. I completely understand your reasoning for avoiding the tax holiday. The one store that drives me crazy is Costco. Good products and decent prices but our local store is always crazy busy. These days I try to do a lot of shopping online. Saves me time and helps me avoid temptation of things I want to buy but don’t actually need.

    • And the Costco that we were members at never had a express line for people with just a few items. You would have to stand in line behind people like me with a full grocery cart and a push cart.

  12. Ugh, I hated the amount of money we would spend on back-to-school supplies, never mind clothes. I used to love the commercial, I think it was for Staples, with a parent sailing through the store on a shopping cart tossing things in it with the Christmas music playing “It’s the most wonderful time, of the year…” So funny. Back to school time had it’s good points and bad points. Bad: Lunches, homework… Good: Getting ’em out of the house and into a routine. Boy your kids go back to school early. They must get out at the beginning of June. For us it’s end of June and back after Labour Day.

    • “Getting ‘em out of the house and into a routine.” Yeah…I think that’s why parents might say it’s the most wonderful time of the year. 🙂 We do get out early…the end of May.

  13. Wade @ DestinationFinancialWisdom.com says

    With 3 kids, back to school shopping always sneaks up on us. My wife has taken each kid shopping and the total is $600 so far. We still have school fees, immunizations, and other items upcoming.

    Christmas in August. But buying stuff and isn’t nearly as fun. No way around it I guess.

    • You are right Wade…It really is a crazy spending time of the year. We save a little bit each month starting in September for the next year’s school supplies. Makes it a little easier knowing the cash is already available to spend on all this back to school stuff.

  14. I haven’t gone school shopping since I was in school, more than 10 years ago. But I can say that I do not miss it! I am not a fan of shopping with crowds, including during the holidays. I do my best to avoid them. I like shopping but only when I can get in and out. Nothing worse than the hustle and bustle of a crowded shopping mall – no thank you!

    • Malls are awful around Christmas time. And the tension starts before you even set foot in a store because you can’t find a place to park your car. Not worth it to me.

  15. I can’t believe they start so soon. I know STAPLES is doing a 110% price match on all back to school supplies this season- seems like a pretty sweet deal.

    • I know. When and where I grew up in Ohio we never started until after Labor Day. An August 11th start sure seems to cut the summer short.

  16. I like yavoid the large crowds whenever I shop. I only went out once during Black Friday and it was more than enough for me.

    • I got up once at 4 am on Black Friday to get in line at Best Buy for some computer item. When I got there the line was already around the corner of the building, easily 150 people deep. I went back home and crawled in bed.

  17. Autumn @ The Barefoot Budgeter says

    I avoid crowds at all costs – I don’t even like to go shopping on Saturdays.

    I worked retail in high school and college and tax free weekend was the worst time of year. People were crazy and in terrible moods. I actually preferred working Black Friday – the crowds were overall more pleasant.

    • It’s funny when we went on Sunday to complete our shopping, most of the shelves were stripped dry of items. That told me that Friday and Saturday had been crazy and I was wise to avoid it.

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