LJWorld.com weblogs Shop Talk with Jenn and Julie

Sales and a Tax Free Holiday to Ease the Burn of Back to School Shopping


In 108 degree weather it is hard to think about anything other than the location of the nearest air conditioner, much less plan ahead for the upcoming school year ... or next year for that matter! The truth is: this is the best time of year to save money on clothes and supplies.

Even though we are still sweltering away, local and big box stores alike are starting to stock up on fall and Back to School clothing. This means that if you keep your eyes open, you can find great deals on this season's clothes. I like to browse the sales racks and pull great deals in next year's sizes for my kids. This weekend at Old Navy I found their kids' swim suits marked down to $5 and was able to purchase one for each of my two oldest kids that I can tuck away for next summer. I also found some shorts marked down to $3 and a couple of shirts for $2. MUCH nicer than the price tags they will have come next spring.

This time of year you will also find stores like JCPenney, Kohl's and Sears offering coupons for $$ off your in store purchase. If you plan ahead and combine these with sales they can be stretched a long way. The coupons range from $15/$25 purchase to even $10/$10 as the school year draws nearer.

Another great way to save money on clothing is to plan a road trip over to Missouri for the Tax Free Holiday. Every August Missouri hosts a "Tax Free Holiday" that allows tax exempt purchases as follows:

  • Clothing – any article having a taxable value of $100 or less
  • School supplies – not to exceed $50 per
  • Computer software – taxable value of $350 or less
  • Personal computers – not to exceed $3,500
  • Computer peripheral devices – not to exceed $3,500

This year Missouri's Tax Free Holiday is the weekend of August 5 - 7. I've shopped this sale before and I find that it is WELL worth the drive to Missouri. There are a LOT of people, it is CRAZY no doubt, but the sales on top of the Tax Free incentive is worth it to me. With a little pre-planning at home I can buy ahead for next year as well as find a few great deals on items we need right away and save a lot of money on our ever expanding "Clothe the Children" budget.

What are your best tips for saving money on Back to School expenses?


Jerry Jennings 6 years, 9 months ago

Thanks for encouraging business to LEAVE not only the town but the state! That's a sure-fire way to help the local economy and boost sales tax income and local financial improvement. There are plenty of bargains in town. You ladies need to look at the bigger picture.... which is NOT at the bottom of your purse.

Katara 6 years, 9 months ago

Your post is pretty funny

If people paid more attention to the bottom of their wallet, most probably wouldn't be in the poor financial situation that they are in. And people being in a better financial situation is a sure-fire way to help the local economy and boost local financial improvement.

kuslp08 6 years, 9 months ago

The tax free sale is only for one weekend. I'm sure Lawrence won't suffer too much. And in this economy, especially when you are trying to run a household on a budget, it IS what is in the bottom of the purse (which is probably not much, at least for me.) I personally love these tips and appreciate the work Jenn and Julie go to to help me save money. Thanks, girls!!

Keith 6 years, 9 months ago

Good thing the LJW is making so much money they can afford to pi$$ off their advertisers. I bet this makes the ad salespeople happy.

Katara 6 years, 9 months ago

Why would LJW's advertisers be upset?

Oh! I see. You're implying because someone blogs about some savings, those stores are getting free advertising. So, I guess when you find something that is a good value to you , you tell absolutely no one about it. You wouldn't want to do any word of mouth free advertisement. It could upset advertisers and we would never want those folks angry, right?

So whose marketing department do you work in?

Keith 6 years, 9 months ago

I knew you'd be along to support your favorite bloggers. You miss my point about the advertisers. They'd be upset because the LJW is promoting shopping in another state for some imagined savings. Why would you want to advertise in a newspaper that openly drives sales away from your market?

Katara 6 years, 9 months ago

It isn't imagined savings so I am not sure why you would say that it was.

Let's say I'm getting my child ready to go to college for their first year by purchasing the following qualifying items: 1. A $700 laptop 2. $50 comforter & sheet set for the dorm + $25 for an extra set of sheets for the extra long twin mattresses all dorms have 3. $150 worth of clothing for the fall school year 4. $50 worth of school supplies for the semester (paper, pens, notebook, calculators, etc.) My pre-tax total is $975.00

Assuming I am not shopping in a special taxing district, if I purchase those items in Lawrence, my total will be $1061.29 (8.85% sales tax).

If I go to KC to buy those same items I would just be paying $975.00 - a savings of $86.29.

It is approximately 60 miles to KCMO (depending on where you are shopping). The amount of gas (assuming your car gets an average of 30 miles/gal.) will be approximately 4 gallons, costing you a grand total of $14.36 for your gas. You still save $71.93.

And have you noticed that Kohl's, Sears, Old Navy & JC Penney's are all national chains? They don't care which town you spend your money in as long as you are spending it at one of their stores. And they also advertise in the LJW.

hail2oldku 6 years, 9 months ago

At $3.50/gallon of gas, you'd have to save a hell of a lot in sales tax just to break even.

mom_of_three 6 years, 9 months ago

see katara's post. How far away do you think Missouri is anyway??

MISTERTibbs 6 years, 9 months ago

I'd say that purchasing a laptop is a big decision that might make it worth your while.

Of course, you do realize that not all communities and counties participate in that holiday don't you? You'll also do a hell of a lot more running around than what you might do here in town so that 120 miles round trip could easily run up to 200 miles.

Oh, btw, the comforter and sheets don't qualify for the tax free program so you lost some saving there.

Using the logic from Katara, you're really better off just ordering everything off the net and having it home delivered. As long as it isn't Amazon you probably won't be charged sales tax and can probably get free shipping for much of it as well.

SuperJenn 6 years, 9 months ago

Here is a list of places not participating in the Holiday:Ballwin Brentwood (Best Buy & Micro Center are located here!) Bridgeton (the stores along St. Charles Rock Road at 270 are located here!) Des Peres (West County Mall is located here!) Frontenac (Frontenac Plaza is located here!) Kirkwood Manchester Maplewood Richmond Heights (Galleria Mall is located here!) University City

There may be a few others. Also, stores who have less than 2% of their merchandise that qualifies for the sale do not have to participate.

Katara 6 years, 9 months ago

None of those places are even close to here so it looks like pretty much every community on the west side of MO is participating.

LadyJ 6 years, 9 months ago

Just so you know, Dell does charge the sales tax online.

hail2oldku 6 years, 9 months ago

As Tibbs pointed out, the purchase of a big ticket item would lead to some significant savings. I'm not in the market for a laptop, so there goes $61.95 of the savings. Clothing is capped at $100 for the tax free holiday so Katara just screwed up there and lost another $4.43 in savings. Disallowed for the bedding, there's $6.64 in lost savings as well. Now I've spent more money in gas than I've saved in sales tax.

Still think it's a good deal? I stand by my statement mom, and hope your three kids learn economics a little better than you did.

SuperJenn 6 years, 9 months ago

The caps listed are per purchase, not per customer. If you were to purchase $100 of clothing at three different stores, you would still receive the tax break on these items.

The added incentive and my main point, is these stores run major discounts on "out of season" clothing...those things that are for summer, not fall... I like to purchase these highly discounted items in next year's sizes so I'm getting the maximum benefit.

Katara 6 years, 9 months ago

You are incorrect about the clothing being capped at $100.

It applies to an article of clothing. An article of clothing cannot exceed $100 to qualify.

Katara 6 years, 9 months ago

Great! So those things are not things that you are in the market for now. It is not a great deal for you.

Were you aware that there are other people in this world other than you?

BTW, clothing is not capped at $100. Read the info, please.

hail2oldku 6 years, 9 months ago

My original post wasn't about me I was just countering MO3's argument (who used your example) as to why it isn't a good idea for everyone.

BTW, YOU need to read the rules, clothing is capped at $100. Of course you can do as Jenn points out and purchase $100 worth of clothing at several different retailers if you so desire. For that matter you could by computers at various participating areas if you needed that.

I don't enjoy the luxury of buying things just because I can on particular weekends. If my computer shoots craps, I'll be out looking for a deal asap not waiting for a tax free holiday, and quite often I'll find better deals paying sales tax v. saving 9% in tax.

You just don't seem to get it.

Katara 6 years, 9 months ago

MO3 never said it was a great idea for everyone. In fact, no one has said that at all here. Why would you get that idea?

I have read the rules. Do you not understand what an article of clothing is?

FTA - "Clothing – any article having a taxable value of $100 or less"

Jenn is incorrect about it being capped at $100/store.

You don't seem to get it. This article is about school shopping not about getting the best deal for your computer that goes kaput. It is not the same situation nor has anyone other than you suggested as such.

So thanks for your sage advice on something that does not apply to school shopping.

hail2oldku 6 years, 9 months ago

You are pathetic with the way you have to twist your argument when shown that you are off base.

I looked at your link and will concede that I was wrong for believing Jenn in regards to clothing. You have yet to acknowledge that it is possible to save more that 9% sales tax if you are vigilant in your local shopping. That INCLUDES school shopping.

Katara 6 years, 9 months ago

Who made the claim that you can't save more than 9% sales tax if you are vigilant in your local shopping?

You fail to understand that these blogs are to provide options to people to save money. Not once has anyone associated with these blogs stated that the only way to save money is to follow their advice.

This blog suggests one way to save money on back to school shopping. It does not suggest that it is the only way. It does not suggest that you cannot save locally.

You came onto this blog making the claim that savings can't be much due to price of gas. Several people demonstrated that yes, there can be significant savings if you plan your trip.

You continue on to take an example of savings given and apply it to yourself. And when it is pointed out to that obviously then, this option is not for you since you are not interested in buying the items listed, you continue on with this mindset that if it isn't beneficial for you, it is not beneficial at all.

Has it occurred to you that just because it is not a good deal for your family, it still can be a good deal for another?

There is no argument twisting on my part. I gave an example where the savings can be had. You disputed it based on faulty information. I pointed out that, while this deal is not for you, it is helpful to others.

I've not made any argument that you cannot save locally if you are vigilant in shopping. It is not an either/or option and to view it as such is being foolish. You can save both at the tax free holiday and you can save shopping locally if you plan your shopping trips. I said that planning is key below. Planning is always key when you want to save money. Argue with that.

hail2oldku 6 years, 9 months ago

BTW, you were the one that introduced the computer to the argument. Not me.

Katara 6 years, 9 months ago

You have difficulty in understanding why examples are used and how they work.

Examples are used to support an argument (i.e. it is possible to save more money at the tax free holiday than gas expenditures) but they are not an argument.

I used a laptop as part of an example of how one can save money on the tax free holiday. The support the example brings to my claim would still be valid if the computer was substituted with another item or items on the qualifying list.

You chose that one item out of the list to refute my claim using your own personal anecdote. Your personal anecdote ("I'm not in the market for a computer") does not refute the claim that one can save money at the tax free holiday.

So what exactly was your point?

hail2oldku 6 years, 9 months ago

You obviously can't see the forest from the trees. It is useless even trying to have this discussion with you.

Katara 6 years, 9 months ago

And yet you keep coming back...

What exactly is your point to all of this "discussion"?

You came in with a remark about gas. MO3 pointed to my example of how one can save and pointed out that MO is not that far away.

You squabbled a bit with me over your incorrect information and then you come back with...

"My original post wasn't about me I was just countering MO3's argument (who used your example) as to why it isn't a good idea for everyone."

That's it. That's your argument. It isn't a good idea for everyone.

Nevermind that no one at all stated that the tax free holiday is a good idea for everyone. Nevermind that it was repeatedly pointed out that while it may not be a good idea for you, it may be a good idea for others.

As pointed out before, this blog discusses one way a family could save money for back to school shopping. There are more ways to save than just this. This blog is just one idea as how to do so for this particular seasonal event. This is about back to school needs. It is not about other situations and when to shop for those.

This isn't a difficult concept. This is not a either/or concept. Shopping the tax free holiday & shopping locally are not mutually exclusive. You can do both and no one has suggested otherwise. You've made up claims that no one made.

You don't get it and you won't get it because you don't want to get it. You are comfortable in your ignorance and unwillingness to learn. Yay you!

SuperJenn 6 years, 9 months ago

That is definitely something to take into account. I plan for this weekend in my budget and use it as a tool to buy clothes for next year...those things that are on sale and also qualify for the tax break. Personally, my mother lives in a larger community in Missouri that participates in the sale so we can make a trip to see her, the kids get time with grandma and I can shop more quickly without worrying about hiring a sitter or wearing out the kids.

Another way would be to car pool with other people who are interested in shopping the sale. As with any deal, it takes some planning and foresight to make it save you significant money. You are right, all aspects of what it takes to acquire the deal need to be figured into the equation when you are deciding how much money it will save you.

mom_of_three 6 years, 9 months ago

this blog is about saving money- not saving money in Lawrence.
although it would be nice if kansas offered the same thing.

tomatogrower 6 years, 9 months ago

Oh yeah, like all those jobs that were created after Bush's tax cuts. Quit beating this dead horse.

tomatogrower 6 years, 9 months ago

I thought you had to prove you were from Missouri to get the tax free stuff.

SuperJenn 6 years, 9 months ago

There is no need to prove you are from Missouri to get the tax holiday. It is based on the location of the store, not the consumer.

Katara 6 years, 9 months ago

Go Chefs! You, sir, a true and loyal fan.

Prairielander 6 years, 9 months ago

Right on Auntie! It's worth 8.85% just to stay out of the state of Mis-er-y!

On the real side. I'm not going to car pool with somebody to shop in MO. I don't like people that much. If you were to hit several shopping centers, it's probably a 140-mile round trip. At 20 mpg (mini-van mileage) that's 7 gals at $3.50/gal = $24.50. If you save $8.85/$100 spent, you'd need to purchase about $300 to break even. Just saying do the math and be an informed consumer.

Katara 6 years, 9 months ago

It is easy to spend that much ($300 +) on school supplies, computers, software & school clothing, especially if you are shopping for more than 1 child.

A graphing calculator is $119.00 on sale. I am not sure whether that would be considered a computer or not. Some of them come with software. When you get to the upper math courses, it is required for class. That is just 1/3 of what you need to spend to break even if you are driving a mini-van.

If you have a teen, clothing is more expensive and there is a point when you can no longer buy clothing in advance due to differences in growth spurts.

The idea is to plan your trip. Surely you do that when you shop locally too?

Yes, driving to MO to buy some pens and paper would be pretty silly just for the tax savings. However, if you are shopping for larger ticket items (computers, software, clothing, etc) then it only makes sense to purchase other items (of comparable price or less to local stores) while you are there.

Of course, it does help to have friends or family that lives in MO. You can have the added benefit of shopping with them, if it is enjoyable for you to do so. If they need to shop for their students, you can divvy up the trip & not have to drive so much. I have a co-worker who does this with her sister. They check out the ads, decide what they need & come up with a game plan. One goes to one shopping center & the other to another. You have to be creative on how you plan your time and money but it is not a difficult thing to do.

Why people make this into a KS vs. MO thing or a local vs. nonlocal is puzzling to me. Getting everything ready to have your student prepared for the school year can be stressful enough. Why add more to it?

Prairielander 6 years, 9 months ago

Well because everything is a KS vs MO thing. Or more accurately a Lawrence thing. Unless it is going to save me big bucks, I'd rather pump the dollars into the local economy. I wouldn't make the trip just to save $20-$30. If it would save me $100, then I would consider it, but to get there I would need to spend $1000+ (actually $1,130).

And wouldn't shopping locally be LESS stressful?

Katara 6 years, 9 months ago

Actually, no. Shopping locally may not be less stressful (although it sure would be nice). You still have the crowds to deal with shopping for the same things. You still can be hitting several stores and can eat up your day doing that locally.

It is certainly your choice as to what makes savings worth it to you. My experience is that small savings add up quickly and I like to see my savings grow.

It is amazing that just because someone suggests something, people lump on here to tell how it isn't the best idea for them or to detail their perceived flaws with the proposed suggestion.

I have yet to see Jenn, Julie or anyone else who enjoys their blogs say that these ideas are something that everyone must do. In fact, it has been emphasized time and time again that YMMV and everyone has different family situations so what might be a good deal for one may not be for another.

How hard is that to understand? Just because it does not work for you, does not mean it will not work for another and vice versa.

Katara 6 years, 9 months ago

"Are there price limits on the qualifying items during the Back-To-School Sales Tax Holiday?

Yes. An article of clothing cannot exceed a taxable value of one hundred dollars. School supplies are not to exceed fifty dollars per purchase. Computer software cannot exceed a taxable value of three hundred fifty dollars, and personal computers or computer peripheral devices cannot exceed three thousand five hundred dollars.

For example, during the sales tax holiday a customer purchases a pair of jeans that costs $98 and a sweater that costs $114. The jeans qualify for the holiday exemption. But tax is due on the full cost of the sweater because it has a taxable value that exceeds the $100 limit for each article of clothing."

http://dor.mo.gov/business/sales/taxholiday/school/faq.php#q7 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ And for those folks who would rather not spend the gas money to drive to MO...

"Do items purchased over the Internet qualify for a Back-To-School Sales Tax Holiday Exemption?

Yes, if the purchase of the qualifying item occurs during the sales tax holiday, is subject to sales tax, and the transaction is completed during the holiday. Delivery can occur after the holiday if the purchaser pays in full during the sales tax holiday."

Do the Back-To-School Sales Tax Holiday thresholds include shipping and handling charges?

The sales tax holiday thresholds include mandatory shipping and handling charges as a part of the total purchase price of holiday related items. http://dor.mo.gov/business/sales/taxholiday/school/faq.php#q17

Most likely the items would need to be delivered to a MO address but if you have friends or family who are willing to accept packages for you and send them your way, it would probably work. ~~~~~~~~~~~ As a weird side note, apparently diapers (both cloth & disposable) qualify under the clothing exemption. http://dor.mo.gov/business/sales/taxholiday/school/faq.php#q5

Katara 6 years, 9 months ago

Musical instruments qualify too. Actually there are a lot of things that qualify that you might not think would be considered back to school. House coats & house slippers qualify. Art supplies qualify. Backpacks & lunch boxes qualify.


This is why planning a shopping trip is key. You may find information that helps you out and helps keep more money in your pocket.

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