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Smarter Back-to-School Spending Tips for Tax-Free Weekend

Iowa retailers are selling clothing tax-free today and Saturday to help reduce back-to-school shopping costs. (Dodgerton Skillhause/Morguefile)
Iowa retailers are selling clothing tax-free today and Saturday to help reduce back-to-school shopping costs. (Dodgerton Skillhause/Morguefile)
August 5, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa - To help with back-to-school shopping, stores in Iowa aren't charging sales tax today or tomorrow on select clothing items and shoes. That's a six to seven-percent savings, depending on where you live in the state.

Jennifer Wolf is a single parenting expert who writes for the website About.com. She said it's tempting to buy as much as possible, but recommends doing a little research to avoid a common problem when shopping a sale.

"If the item would have been 20 percent off the week before or the week after, then saving that seven percent during the sales-tax holiday doesn't help you that much," she said. "So, I would say, the trap of thinking, 'This is the time to buy everything,' and over-spending or not sticking to your budget."

In Iowa, 17 percent of children live in families below the federal poverty level, earning $24,000 dollars a year or less, so the tax savings can be a big help. Clothing and shoes for everyday use, and that doesn't include items like specialized athletic wear, or accessories like watches and jewelry, are sold tax-free, today and Saturday.

Wolf also said even though we're in the "dog days of summer," it's a good idea to consider purchases that will be needed in the coming months.

"I always think, 'August, winter coats,' thinking ahead about those big-ticket items," she added. "But also, read the fine print because in Iowa, the sales-tax holiday applies to items that are less than $100 per item."

Also according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 27 percent of Iowa families are headed by a single parent. As an expert on the issues and challenges facing these households, Wolf said it can be helpful for these families to "team up."

"If you can, shop with a friend," she said. "You can keep an eye on each other's kids, and you can help each other be accountable to your budget, so that you're not overspending. And then, just know when to quit."

A complete list of the items being sold tax-free is online at tax.iowa.gov.

Bob Kessler, Public News Service - IA