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Here's how to save the most during the Sales Tax Holiday

Mom shares her secrets for getting the best back-to-school deals
Posted at 5:56 AM, Aug 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-02 20:36:50-04

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines!

Ohio's back-to-school Sales Tax Holiday kicks off Friday morning and runs through Sunday evening. Kentucky and Indiana do not have the tax break, but shoppers can cross the state line and shop tax-free.

Once again in 2019, the State of Ohio will charge no sales tax on:

  • Clothing items costing $75 or less
  • School supplies costing $20 or less

Local mom shares her secrets to save more

Minda Doan of Blue Ash has her list ready. This busy mom of two plans to be at Target on Friday to grab the best selections before the shelves are cleared.

So we caught up with her to find some of her secrets for getting the best deals.

The first thing she told us might surprise you. Except for some basics, like gym shoes, shorts and athletic pants, she waits till school starts to buy most of her kids' clothing. Why? Because she wants to see what's in fashion this year in their grade.

“I don’t buy them a lot of new clothes until after school starts," she said, "because what we buy may not be what all the kids are wearing. So my kids will want something new.”

She buys some clothing, maybe some coats for later in the season, to enjoy the tax break. She even buys some clothing for herself.

But her biggest purchases during the tax holiday are classroom essentials.

“This time of year I buy the little stuff," she said. "I buy the notebooks, the pencils, ink pens, binders, that kind of thing.”

Also surprising: Doan tries not to shop with her children during the tax holiday.

"I try not the bring them with me because they are going to want the cute stuff, versus to the plain, basic stuff I plan to buy," she said.

Bringing the kids along this weekend will add to your bill, well, according to Doan at least.

“I leave them at home, 'cause they are going to try to talk you into the prettier $3 notebook versus the basic, but just as good, $1 notebook," Doan said.

She says think hard if you really need to pay extra for some name brand items, such as Mead Five Star notebooks.

“This is a Mead Five Star for $2.49," she said, pointing to a display of the popular notebooks. "But here you can get almost the exact same thing, it's still a Mead notebook, for 99 cents.”

When to spend a bit more for quality

But when it comes to backpacks, Doan says she does not go cheap.

She says she has bought cartoon character backpacks for $19 in past years that didn't make it till Christmas before the strap broke or zipper stuck. Nowadays more she pays more for a higher quality bag.

“My kid carry L.L. Bean bags," she said. "I spend $40 for one bag, and my daughter had hers from kindergarten through 4th grade."

She also pays a bit more for metal water bottles, as opposed to the cheaper plastic ones.

”I like the metal ones 'cause I think they are better insulated,” she said.

Same with folders. Doan says cheap folders won't last.

“The paper folders are usually done by Thanksgiving, but I find the vinyl ones last 2/3 of the school year," she said.

Doan says one mistake she used to make was buying no name crayons and colored pencils in an attempt to save money. But then she noticed they never lasted quite as long as the name brand. For instance, Crayola products.

“Crayons, colored pencils, markers, I find the off brands are waxy," Doan said. "So you are getting more of a pink color instead of that bright red or pretty bright blue.”

So she stocks up on Crayola, Elmers and Ticonderoga products during the tax holiday.

What you need to know before you shop

So what do you need to know before you hit the stores this tax-free weekend?

Strawbari Callahan, a manager of Walmart in West Chester, says you don't have to guess anymore if there will be a tax holiday.

“The good news is this year, 2019, the state of Ohio has made it permanent, so it will occur the first Friday, Saturday, Sunday of August each year," Callahan said.

She said the biggest misconception is that you can only purchase school clothing.

“Absolutely not," she explained. "Any clothing item under $75 qualifies, because some schools do not use uniforms. So regular clothes as well will qualify, even clothes for mom."

But she reminds shoppers that unlike in some other states, laptops and iPads do not qualify for a tax break in Ohio (only supplies costing less than $20).

Callihan also says contrary to popular belief, the shelves won't be empty on Sunday. Stores hold back some merchandise so they can restock Friday night and again Saturday night.

But some shoppers, like Stephanie Burns of West Chester, are not taking any chances. Burns said she plans to shop Friday for the best selection.

“Well last year, we weren’t able to get a few items, so we figured we would get a jump start this year," Burns said.

That's why you'll probably find stores the most crowded on Friday, as moms like Burns and Doan scour the shelves for items on their teachers' lists, grab some new gym shoes and athletic wear and (shhhh) maybe even buy a few clothing items for themselves.

And that way you don't waste your money.

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