Archive for Save Money

Oct
24

Who Do You Know?

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It’s the middle of October, and a cold snap is due to hit next week.  I’m going to have to turn the furnace on, and it needs to be serviced.  I read the other day that 1/100 of an inch of dust on the motor can reduce the efficiency quite a bit.  I have no doubt there’s enough dust on the motor that a cleaning is needed!  The furnace is getting up there in age, too, and it really needs to be checked for carbon monoxide.

The price of a regular seasonal furnace check from any of the licensed companies in the city is approx. $150.  I was able to find a few coupons, which would bring the cost down to about $100.  If I want to bundle services and buy a package deal for both summer and winter check-ups, the cost is around $200.

I’m going to spend $50 to service the furnace – because I know Jerry..

Side Work Is Lucrative

In April, my husband lost his job. I had an appointment scheduled the very next week for an AC check-up, and I’d scheduled the package deal for $200.  When I made the appointment weeks before, the package deal made sense – buy summer and winter and get a discount!  Of course, I took the package deal!  Because of the job loss, however, I was reluctant to spend that kind of money – even with an emergency fund available.

The next day, during a trip to the mailbox, I ran into my next-door neighbor.  I asked him if he knew anyone that did home AC servicing, and did they do side work?  Bingo!  He did know someone – a young man who worked for a heating and cooling company in the city, and had serviced my neighbor’s appliances for the last couple of years.

I made a call to Jerry, who came out that weekend.  While chatting with Jerry, I found out he was in his early 20’s, had a 3 year old daughter, and had been doing appliance service work in the 3 years since he’d graduated from Vo-Tech school.  He worked for a family-owned small business that had been in the business for 30 years.  Jerry played hockey on the weekends, and serviced all the rental homes of a couple of real estate agents in town – and one of those I happened to know.  When Jerry was finished servicing the unit, he gave me a written report about the unit and its performance – and a bill for $50.

In July, on the hottest day of the year, the house woke up to a broken AC unit.  I called Jerry that morning, and at 8 PM, after he had finished his work schedule for the day, he came by and fixed the unit.  A capacitor had burnt out and needed replaced.  Total cost:  $75.  This fix normally would have been a $150 repair.

If you know the right people, or know the people who know the right people, you can save money on just about anything.  Auto mechanic, auto body repairman,  heating and cooling, hair dresser, roofer, concrete finisher, brick layer, teacher, carpenter – these are the occupations of people that I personally know that work a regular 8-5 job, but will also do side work.

Ask around, you never know who your friends know!  Not only can you save money, but the person doing the side work also profits.  Depending on the job, a lot of money can be made by doing side work.

Side Work to Self-employment

If you have dreams of owning your own business, or simply going out on your own and away from any employer, you can use side work to build up a clientele.  Once you’re got enough money coming in that you can replace your employee income, jump out into your dream.  (Beware of any contracts you signed for your current employer:  non-compete, exclusivity, etc)

 

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Oct
11

Emergency! Emergency!

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No Job SignSix months ago, April 6th, on Good Friday (oh, the irony!) – my husband lost the job he had for 13 years. This came completely out of the blue, with no warning. I now know what the bug hitting the zapper in the back yard feels like.

Once the initial shock wore off, we took stock. We had an Emergency Fund, and my husband was owed vacation pay. When I added the two together, we had approx. $25,000 cash. I knew we’d be alright for a few months with the emergency fund, but I also knew we’d have to cut spending to the bone. We didn’t have any credit card debt, nor any car payments, which was a big plus. Those are expenses that can drain finances quickly. We did have a mortgage, insurance, utilities, food, gas – basic and necessary expenses that kept the roof over our heads, the Internet lights on, and food on the table.

I wasn’t overly worried. MrBP is good at his job. I knew the phone would be ringing fairly soon with a job offer, or he’d be able to network a bit and find an opening. This layoff was going to be just a little bump in the road in the overall scheme of things, and we would be fine.

The first thing MrBP did was file for unemployment. Unemployment in this country is not fair to the unemployed, as I’m sure anyone out of work will tell you. MrBP did qualify for the maximum amount of weekly unemployment: $320.00. Wow. I know $320 is better than nothing, but a month of unemployment checks still wouldn’t cover the mortgage. MrBP could also draw unemployment for the maximum number of weeks: 20. Another Wow. Twenty weeks of unemployment equals thirteen years of work history. If he had worked the for company for 30 years, 20 weeks was still the maximum number of weeks he could draw. There is something wrong with that government math!

When a person files for unemployment it takes some time to get that first check. Remember that vacation pay I mentioned? That had to be claimed as income for 3 weeks.  (If what you claim is more than the amount you’re eligible for – you don’t get paid unemployment that week)  At the end of the 3 “vacation” weeks, a waiting week had to be “put in”. This happens to everyone – the first week you are unemployed basically doesn’t count – for anything. Unemployment benefits don’t become available until the second week a person is out of work. Checks don’t come the second week either – the process of being approved for unemployment can take 2-3 weeks, or much longer. Considering the majority of the working population lives paycheck to paycheck, losing a job can be a big deal. All of this waiting for money is going on when people need that money the most!

MrBP was out of work for a month. He never did draw an unemployment check, because the 3 vacation weeks and the 1 waiting week took up that month. We had enough money in the bank that life went on as normal – we just didn’t spend any extra, we didn’t go out to eat, we didn’t go to the movies. Cutting out all unnecessary spending opened my eyes to the kind of money we did spend in some areas. Because there was enough coming in, neither of us had paid much attention to some of the conveniences that were going out. (After all, life shouldn’t be all work and no play, right?)

If we hadn’t had our Emergency Fund, life would have been a completely different story. We would have been in financial trouble fast, as fast as the bills came due. We spend $3000 monthly on house, utilities, insurance, and cell phone payments, but that doesn’t count food, gas for the cars, incidentals, etc.

Emergency Funds are as necessary as homeowners insurance is if you own your home, as necessary as car insurance is if you drive a car. Everyone should have an Emergency Fund. If you don’t have one, you need to start one. Don’t tell me you can’t afford one – you can’t afford NOT to have one!

An Emergency Fund is intended to replace income if you can’t work, but it’s also nice to have when the car needs major repair or the AC unit quits on a 100 degree day in July.

Most financial planners recommend having 3-6 months worth of living expenses saved. But, due to the state of the economy, the average length of time a person is unemployed these days is 9 months (Bureau of Labor Statistics). If you’ve only got a 3 month cushion, what are you going to do the other 6 months when the rent is due, and you’re still looking for work? I know what you’re thinking – you’ve got those credit cards in your billfold, and you’ll fall back on those if you really need to. Let me ask you this: when the credit line is used up, how are you going to repay that debt?

Starting and regularly adding to your Emergency Fund may feel daunting, and may seem like an insurmountable task.   The good news is, you may not need as much as you think. Sit down and make a list of every single bill you pay every month. Go through your bank statement and write down all debit card transactions and what they were for. Check the bank statement for ATM cash withdrawals, and write down what those were for. Get out your credit card statements and add those transactions to the list of money going out for the month. Add all the numbers up.

Now, cut out what isn’t absolutely necessary. The mortgage payment is necessary. $5 at Starbucks twice a week is not. Look closely at bills such as cell phone, cable, gym memberships, newspaper delivery, lawn care – if it came down to it, are these as necessary as food and electricity? No?  Cut those out. Once you figure out the basic living expenses you need to survive, multiple that by 12. Write that number down. Your savings goal is 12 months of basic living expenses in an Emergency Fund.

Work out a savings plan, even if all you can do is save $1 a week, or $25 a month, or the change from your pocket at the end of the day. Put that money in savings and forget it. Cut out one or both of those lattes every week and put that money in savings instead. Treat your Emergency Fund like it’s your water or gas bill, figure out how much you can save regularly, and pay the savings account just like it’s the mortgage company.  Start today.

I was glad we had savings to fall back on. We spent a lot of it, and it went faster than planned because the AC unit did break down on the hottest day of the year, along with a few other things.

During the 5th week of unemployment, the phone rang and MrBP was offered a job – at the opposite end of the state. A 3 hour drive, one way, from the home we’ve lived in for the last 24 years. Whoa.

The new job – and where it was at – brought up a lot of questions: were we going to relocate? Sell our home here? Rent it out? Rent in the new location, or buy? Where would MrBP live for the near future – with family in that area, and if so, for how long? How much was all of this going to cost? There were so many variables and many unknowns six months ago!  A few things didn’t work out, while great truths were learned … stay tuned to find out what happened!

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Oct
04

Free One-on-One Financial Planning Help

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Financial Planning Day What is Financial Planning?

What financial goals would you like to obtain?  What’s on your “Wish List” when it comes to money?

Do you want to buy a home?  Do you own your home, but dream about a vacation home in the mountains or a weekend home at the lake?

Do the kids want to go to Disney World next summer, but you’re not sure you can afford a local pool pass for the season?

Are you able to save today for college for the kids, or have you put that off until tomorrow? Tomorrow is already here, you know.

What about your retirement – how many retirement accounts do you have, and do you regularly fund those to the max?  Is your retirement diversified, or do you have all of your eggs in one basket?  Can you retire without Social Security and live in the manner to which you are now accustomed?  Have you thought about retirement very much, or is that something you’re going to do “tomorrow”?

Financial planning is a must, no matter who you are or what your circumstances are.  What is your financial plan right now?  What strategy do you have in place – right now – that will allow you to retire financially independent?  Do you know where to start to make your financial dreams your reality?  Do you know how to make your dreams your reality?  Are you lost when it comes to implementing changes to your money situation?

We all have money dreams, but most of us aren’t smart enough to know how to make our dreams come true.  We don’t have the time to do the research we need in order to know where to invest, or how, or how much.  We don’t know what goal to tackle first.  We aren’t sure of the quickest way to the goal line.  We’re lost when it comes to the math.  We need help.  During the month of October 2012, personal, one-on-one help is available in many cities across the country.

Financial Planning Days Initiative

During the month of October 2012, “Financial Planning Days Initiative” is taking place.  Four different non-profit organizations**  are bringing together highly qualified, professional, Certified Financial Planners to provide one-on-one counseling sessions to the public.  There will also be classroom style learning sessions held, and free packets of financial literature given away.  All of the work being done by the professionals is on a volunteer basis, and no payment is expected.  Services are free.  You can sit down with a financial planner and ask for personal advice – with no strings attached.  The volunteers will not try to sell you anything, they won’t even give you their business card.  No business will be promoted at all – the professionals are there to answer your questions and help – that’s it.  (If you are a professional, certified financial planner and would like to volunteer, you can find out how here)

Gather your questions about retirement planning, debt, credit issues, budget questions, taxes, college, mortgage loans, investments, estate planning, small business finance, and insurance together, and find out if the Initiative is available where you live:

Click here to find a Financial Planning Day in your area

A list of 2012 events can be found by clicking here

A list of participating states:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • District of Columbia
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas
  • Virgina
  • Washington

Can’t go?  You Can Still Get the Same Information Packet Being Handed Out

If there is no Financial Planning Initiative in your state, the free information packet information is still available to you and can be found at the links below.  Take a look at the information available, and give yourself a quick education in the basics of financial planning.  Pick up tips and advice on everything from a college savings plan to long term care insurance.

You Can Organize & Simplify Your Financial Life:  A How To Guide

Saving and Investing:  A Roadmap to Your Financial Security Through Saving and Investing

Savings Fitness:  A Guide to Your Money & Your Financial Future

Smart Saving for College – 529 Plans & Other College Savings Options

Guide to Disability Income Insurance

Guide to Long Term Care Insurance

Consumer Guide to Financial Self-Defense

 

** Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc.®, Financial Planning Association®, the Foundation for Financial Planning, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors

 

 

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This Saturday, September 29th, is “Museum Day Live!”

Over 1,450 museums across the country are offering FREE admission!

In the spirit of Smithsonian Museums, who offer free admission everyday, Museum Day Live! is an annual event hosted by Smithsonian magazine in which participating museums across the country open their doors to anyone presenting a Museum Day Ticket … you get in for free!

Check this link  “Find a Museum Page”  to locate a participating museum in your area. I was surprised to see 3 pages returned to me when I checked my state. Once you find a museum on the list you’d like to visit for free, fill out and submit this form on the  “Ticket Information Page” . You will receive an email with instructions on how to download and print your *FREE* ticket.

You won’t be able to get into the museum without your free ticket. One ticket is allowed per household, per address, and one ticket admits two people. If you take more than one person with you to the museum, someone is going to have to pay full price to get in. (The free ticket will not cover parking charges, special events, or special exhibits)

If you’re looking for something to do this Saturday, visit a museum! Museum trips make great family outings. Use this *free* Saturday experience to introduce your kids to history and art – it’s been shown in studies that museums make you smarter and inspire learning! Put on your walking shoes – and don’t forget your ticket!

Learn More:  http://www.smithsonianmag.com/museumday/

Find a Museum Here:  http://www.smithsonianmag.com/museumday/venues/

Get Your Free Ticket For Two Here:  http://www.smithsonianmag.com/museumday/ticket/

 

 

 

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Sep
18

Helpful Hands

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Today’s post is my first guest blogger, a fellow writer I’ve known for many years. A. T. Weaver is the pen name of an elderly woman living in Eastern Kansas, author of 3 books and more than 1 blog.  A. T. Weaver – WriterAs I watch the elderly people in my life struggle with fixed incomes vs. rising expenses, I know all too well how every little bit helps. If you are able, donate to your local Harvester’s and food banks. When the Post Office has their food drive, hang a sack on the mailbox and put a couple of cans or boxes in it. Two cans of beans may not mean much to you, but it can be a meal for someone. I’ll never forget seeing an elderly gentleman ahead of me in the check-out lane, counting out pennies and nickles to buy two cans of pork & beans. He opened one of the cans and ate it while sitting on the curb. Your two cans of beans may keep someone from going hungry that day.

Two hands holding loaf of breadAs a senior citizen living on Social Security, sometimes it’s difficult to make ends meet. I live in a HUD subsidized facility so my rent is not as high as it would be otherwise, however it is still one-third of my income. There are several organizations that help seniors with financial problems.

Where I live we have two organizations that come in every week. One is the New Life Family Church in Kansas City, Kansas. Every Monday, they bring in bread and pastries that would otherwise be thrown out. Now that may not seem like a lot – a free loaf of bread – but if you’ve been to the grocery store lately, you know the cost of bread can be over $2.00 a loaf. Most of the items are dated either ‘today’ or ‘yesterday’ but they are still edible. Of course there are those in my building who complain about the type of bread they bring. Today I went downstairs and there were at least ten or twelve baguettes left. Most of the seniors here don’t like baguettes or French bread. It makes good garlic toast or cheese bread.

Another organization is Village Church. Every Monday they come and pick up our ‘Senior Center Shopping List’. We can choose two canned vegetables, two soups/sauces, one canned meat, one staple (sugar, flour, rice, cake mix, etc.), one dairy, one snacks/chips, one fresh vegetable or fruit, and bread. One week a month they will bring peanut butter, fruit or juice, and personal & household items. i.e. dish soap, laundry soap, hand soap, toothpaste, toilet paper. Now they only bring one roll of toilet paper which doesn’t last a whole month, but that’s a roll we don’t have to buy.

Then on Thursday, they deliver what we’ve asked for. They have a contract with Trader Joes and often bring fresh fruit and vegetables. They also bring bread and pastries from area grocery stores. Again, these items may be dated ‘today’ but they are still edible. Then we fill out a new list and send our bag back to be refilled.

Since my building has the Village Church delivery, we don’t have a Harvesters’ distribution. However, there is a distribution once a month at a location in Olathe where we can go and get fresh fruit and vegetables and again, bread and pastries. If you have a car or someone with whom you can get a ride, it’s a good deal. I usually take one other lady with me. I would take more, but by the time we get a walker and a cart and two boxes of food in the car, there is no more room.  Two hands holding pineapple

One other source of food is the Government Commodities. While the other distributions are for anyone in the building, you must qualify for Commodities. One other problem with them is the fact that so many seniors have problems with what they can eat. For example I am diabetic. There are a lot of foods I can’t eat in the Commodities bags so I quit taking them.

There are many months when these services mean whether or not seniors have a meal on the table. I for one am very grateful for these helpful hands.

 

 Helpful Resources:Feeding America is the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief charityGovernment Emergency Food Assistance Program (Food Commodities)

Harvester’s

Find a local food bank (Feeding America)

Food Stamp & WIC Program Apply Online

Meals on Wheels

Find Free Food

Global Food Banking Network

 

 

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The Bank May Own Your Home, But Don't Let Them InsureA representative from the Sheriff’s office knocked on the front door, clipboard in hand. She was there as a courtesy, to inform the homeowner that first thing the next morning the sheriff would arrive to move everything in the house to the curb. Barb was being evicted, courtesy of “The Bank”. The homeowner knew the eviction was coming, she just didn’t know when. Filing Chapter 13 Bankruptcy six years previous and jumping through the required hoops, court appearances, and red tape paperwork had not saved her home in the end.

Fifteen years ago, starry-eyed Barb was living the American Dream of Home Ownership the day she signed loan papers and bought her first house. She had a good job as an employee of the state where she lived, earning a decent wage, had a retirement account, some money in the bank, and a savings account. Buying a house seemed like the next logical step, and she took it. The payment was certainly cheap enough, just slightly over $550 a month – monthly rent was more than a house payment! It made sense to buy instead of rent!

Things were good for quite a few years, but due to budget cut-backs, Barb lost her job with the state. The economy was starting to slow down and unemployment was rising. There were suddenly a lot of 30 and 40-something women out there, looking for work. When her savings ran out, she cashed in her retirement account to pay the bills. By picking up work here and there, Barb was able to stretch what money she had saved for retirement and pay bills for two years. Before she did hit that area slightly beyond broke, Barb was able to get a new job with a non-profit agency. She was back to work full time.   Things began to look up.

One day Barb got sick. High health insurance deductibles, co-pays, percentages the insurance wouldn’t pay, lost wages from missed work once the sick pay ran out. Everything began to gather into a perfect financial storm that would culminate in losing her home. Barb had no clue what was coming down the track.

During the time Barb was sick, she missed paying the premium on her homeowners policy. She remembered getting a letter from “The Bank” – it was in a stack of mail that was waiting for her when she returned home from a hospital stay. The letter told her that because “The Bank” had a financial interest in her home, and because the insurance policy protecting the dwelling had lapsed, “The Bank” had purchased a policy to cover their interest in the house. Barb had so many things to worry about that day, she breathed a sigh of relief that catching up on past-due insurance premiums wasn’t such a pressing issue anymore. There was still insurance on the house in case it caught fire tomorrow. “The Bank” was also going to be nice, and add the insurance premium to her house payment. Barb put all worry about homeowners insurance out of her mind at that moment.

Barb got sicker. She was in the hospital again, and again. Bills were piling up, and for some reason her monthly mortgage payment had gone from a tad over $550 a month to almost $900. She didn’t understand what the $400 listed each month in the “Miscellaneous” column was for, and repeated calls to “The Bank” didn’t get any answers.

Things were getting bad financially. The utilities were turned off, but Barb was able to get help from a non-profit agency to turn them back on.  She started selling off her belongings in garage sales, but before long there were too many bills, and there was never going to be enough money.

Barb consulted an attorney, who took one look at her financial situation and advised her to file bankruptcy to stop the collection agencies and save her house.  She filed Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, and was set up with a five year repayment plan.  Barb’s plan was to use this breathing room the bankruptcy would give her to catch up on her past-due mortgage and try to get a handle on her health.

Barb needed help with her with income tax filings. She had been so sick she hadn’t filed anything for a few years, and the Bankruptcy Court and the IRS were demanding tax returns. While looking through her paperwork, I realized what that $400 a month tacked onto her mortgage payment was for: it was the premium for the homeowners policy “The Bank” had bought when her policy lapsed. She had been charged this “premium” for at least two years, perhaps three, which had thrown her into a very deep hole. I immediately called my insurance agent and put him in contact with Barb. He was able to write a policy on her home that cost approx. $100 a month. We were able to get “The Bank” to stop charging her for “The Bank” policy – but the damage had been done. That “past-due balance” hole was pretty deep at this point.

Barb got sicker. Barb had major surgery that required a lengthy hospital stay. She was only home from the hospital a few days when she had a heart attack in the middle of the night. The doctors told her it was a miracle she was able to wake up and get help for herself. Back to the hospital she went, and when she came out a few weeks later, she was permanently glued to a portable oxygen canister. Barb lost her job.

It took about six months, but Barb was qualified for and started receiving Social Security Disability. It didn’t make much difference by that time – her Social Security check is $1100 a month, the mortgage was in such arrears due to the added “miscellaneous” expense and simply not being paid, there was no catching up. Barb could maintain, but she could not catch up.

In May of this year, Barb received a letter from “The Bank”, telling her that her home was due to be sold at a foreclosure sale. “The Bank” bought it at that sale and changed the county real estate records to show they were the owner of record.

Barb started looking around for income based housing, and found out there was a three year waiting list for anything
she could afford. She knew she couldn’t stay in the house indefinitely, but what does a person do in a situation like this? They stay where there is a roof over their head. Last week, the Sheriff’s office representative showed up at the front door, clipboard in hand. When she saw Barb was on oxygen, and was able to see that she was under the care of a doctor, she told Barb to show that documentation to the Sheriff when he did arrive with a crew – it might make a difference, it might not.

Barb was able to work with the sheriff to avoid having her entire household moved to the curb. Friends came with a trailer, and within a few days everything she owned was packed and moved into a friends garage and basement. Within the week, Barb was out of her home of 15 years and living with a friend. She is looking for a rental home she can afford. With only $1100 in disability income a month, it isn’t going to be easy.

This is not an isolated case. “The Bank” that Barb paid her mortgage to is a large, national bank. Last fall, my in-laws stopped by my house one day and asked me to take a look at mortgage papers they had received from their bank – which is a small bank in my hometown. This “hometown” bank has a few branches in neighboring villages, but it is not a large, national bank, nor a large bank chain. My in-laws were attempting to refinance their existing mortgage in order to take advantage of a cheaper interest rate. I knew my in-laws paid their own home-owners insurance, and I knew the local agent they did business with. I was surprised to see a line item in the refinance papers for “home owners insurance”, and the cost: $2000 per year. The current insurance policy with the local agent is around $700 per year.

If your finances deteriorate to the point that you cannot pay the insurance premiums on your home, don’t automatically let the bank buy a replacement policy for you.  Talk to your insurance agent and see what can be done to keep the policy you have now.  If you are signing loan papers, pay attention to every line item in the loan disclosure paperwork and the loan papers themselves. If you see something you don’t understand or do have questions about, ASK. The law requires that your lender give you an answer. Ask questions until everything is explained to your satisfaction. It is your money, make sure you understand the cost.

For those of you that are asking the question, “Does the bank make money on those premiums, is that why they are so high?” The answer is, “Yes, you bet they do.”  Writing that policy to cover that loan through an insurance company (working with the bank for that very purpose) nets the bank a tidy commission.

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Quite a few years ago, my sister-in-law talked me into taking four kids, ranging in age from grade school to junior high, and spending four days in a mall.  Yes, I spent four days of my vacation in a mall – and it wasn’t just any mall, it was the second largest mall in the United States.  Mall of America, near Minneapolis, covers almost 97 acres!  Seven Yankee Stadiums will fit inside this mall! 40 million people visit this mall each year!  There is an amusement park in the middle of this mall!

Anyone that knows me well knows I don’t “do” malls, and I don’t like large crowds.  I don’t shop at Wal-mart, I shop small local stores as much as possible.  My common sense flew right out the window at the look on the young faces when they heard the trip proposal, so we packed kids, luggage, and ourselves in a van and headed out at 7 AM one morning.

I was dumbstruck when, after checking into the hotel at 3:30 PM and flopping on the very comfortable, very inviting bed, my sister-in-law popped her head through the connecting door and screamed, “Let’s go to the mall!”  (You’re kidding, right?  I just drove 8 hours in a van to get here, and you want to go to the mall?  Now?  You’re joking!  No? You’re not joking?)

We all got back in the van.  We all went to the mall.

Save sales tax on back to school items!   Learn how at The Budget Professional! School was due to start in a few weeks, and my kids needed school clothes and shoes.  The first store we hit was Old Navy, and jeans were on sale!  I bought each kid enough jeans for a year, and when I got to the checkout the total was enough to make the monthly payment on a luxury car.  But, the sales clerk congratulated me on saving so much on sales tax.  I had no clue that Minnesota was having a sales tax holiday that weekend, which meant that all clothing, school supplies, and computer purchases had the normally assessed sales tax waived.  The savings on our purchases that weekend quickly added up.

A few years later, the state I live in started holding sales tax holidays, usually a few weeks before schools were due to start classes.  Cities and towns use the sales tax holiday as an incentive to lure shoppers into stores.  Merchants stock shelves and hang sale signs in anticipation of seeing larger crowds than normal.  A lot of shoppers will plan and wait to make large purchases, such as desktop and laptop computers, in order to save sales tax.  If a laptop computer is priced at $2,000, and the local tax rate is 9%, that is a savings of $180 in sales tax.  Quite a savings when coupled with back to school clothes and school supplies for multiple children.

Most states put a limit on what kind of items are exempt from sales tax during these tax holidays, and the tax exemptions are usually limited to clothing, shoes, school supplies, computers, computer equipment, software, and text books.  Each state will also put a dollar limit on what can be purchased – in Missouri, for example, the dollar limit on a personal computer is $3,500, whereas the state of Texas does not have computers listed as an allowable item for sales tax exemption during their tax holiday.

Sales tax holidays have been expanded in recent years to include energy efficient home appliances, hot water heaters, air conditioners, or hurricane preparedness items such as generators and supplies.  A few states also add hand guns, rifles, and ammunition as allowable purchases during these tax holidays.  Each state has different rules, so make sure you know what is allowed and what is not before you set out on your shopping trip.

Local municipalities can and do exempt themselves from sales tax holidays.  Just because the state allows the holiday does not mean the town where you live must participate.  The village where I live, for example, exempted themselves from the state sales tax holiday, using the reasoning that the city could not afford to lose the sales tax on those purchases.  I think the city lost a lot more than they would have by participating in the holiday, because most people that live here simply traveled 5 or 10 minutes down the road to the next suburb and spent their money in a town that waived sales tax on what they bought during those sales tax free days.

The following states will soon hold State Sales Tax Holidays:

  • Alabama  August 3-5
  • Arkansas  August 4-5
  • Connecticut  August 19-25
  • Florida  August 3-5
  • Georgia  August 10-11
  • Iowa  August 3-4
  • Louisiana  August 3-4
  • Maryland  August 12-18
  • Missouri  August 3-5
  • New Mexico  August 3-5
  • North Carolina  August 3-5
  • Oklahoma  August 3-5
  • South Carolina  August 3-5
  • Tennessee  August 3-5
  • Texas  August 17-18
  • Virginia  August 3-5

Please check this link:

2012 State Sales Tax Holidays per the FTA

where you’ll find more info and details on the items available for sales tax exemption, 2012 dates for the sales tax holiday in your state, and links back to each state where you can obtain item lists, sales tax rate schedules, limitations, and more.

In case you have issues with the link above:  http://www.taxadmin.org/fta/rate/sales_holiday.html

Happy shopping!

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