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THE CONSUMER DOCTOR

3 smart ways to spend your money during Massachusetts' sales tax holiday weekend on Aug. 13-14

Shoppers walk through furniture showroom looking at patio furniture

During the upcoming sales tax holiday weekend, any single product item, purchased at a retail store or online for personal use, selling for $2,500 or less, is exempt from Massachusetts sales tax. There are exclusions, which include meals, motor vehicles, tobacco products and alcoholic beverages.

Welcome to my Consumer Doctor column for The Berkshire Eagle! I am pleased to begin this column on Massachusetts’ sales tax holiday weekend coming up Aug. 13-14.

Last month, there was a 9 percent annual inflation rate. This means the value of the dollar is shrinking along with your purchasing power, which is running out of control. Let’s see how we can put the brakes on this steep, downhill economic road by saving money.

Martin Lecker mug shot

During the upcoming sales tax holiday weekend, any single product item, purchased at a retail store or online for personal use, selling for $2,500 or less, is exempt from Massachusetts sales tax. There are exclusions, which include meals, motor vehicles, tobacco products and alcoholic beverages.

Any online purchase paid in full by Aug. 14 will be tax exempt regardless of its delivery date. Online orders should automatically not be charged a state sales tax during this weekend. This was confirmed after speaking to two online company corporate officials: Susan Frachette, Wayfair’s associate director of corporate communications, and Elizabeth Palo, Target’s account coordinator.

Still, before checkout, I would make sure that a sales tax is not on your bill.

But, if you are erroneously charged a sales tax, there is a remedy.

Naysa Woomer, of the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, recommends that you provide a copy of the receipt(s) and visit the Massachusetts Department of Revenue’s website to consult a list of frequently asked questions. This site also has more specific details on what is and is not sales tax exempt.

DISCOUNTED ITEMS

With the summer drawing to a close, several items are discounted during the month of August. Outdoor barbecue grills are one example, but there are several grill types.

Bart Raser, president of Carr Hardware, explained that besides charcoal grills, there are propane, gas, electric and pellet grills, too.

So how do you know what is best for you?

“It depends upon your cooking lifestyle,” Raser said. “Hardcore grillers who like it low [temperature] and slow [cooking time] should purchase a charcoal grill.”

He added, “Budget is another factor, which is why you should always consult an expert in grills before purchasing one.”

As for other August deals, Raser pointed out generators and power equipment. During the no-sales tax weekend, his customers will be given a “double no tax weekend” when there will be a 6.25 percent discount given by Carr, in addition to the 6.25 percent sales tax exemption, for a total savings of 12.5 percent. That seems like a good deal to me.

SCHOOL SUPPLIES

Even though the cost of school supplies and school clothes has increased, this increase may be reduced by companies such as Target.

Here, college students can save up to 20 percent on a one-time purchase in their Target Circle Offer program up until Sept. 3. Teachers may save 15 percent on school supplies, as part of their Teacher Prep Event up until Sept. 10, according to Palo, of Target’s corporate office.

At Staples, teachers can save 5 percent for themselves in their Staple Rewards program. You may also want to scout out laptops, printers, wire routers and tablet computers at these or other retailers/e-tailers. I would check with your school websites now, so you can take advantage of this upcoming sales tax holiday weekend.

SUMMER CLOTHES

As most of you know, summer bathing suits and summer clothes will also be on sale in order to clear out their inventory for the incoming fall clothes. Right now companies such as Gap, Kohl’s and Macy’s are already advertising their deep discounts online. You may want to check out your local retail stores as well.

In addition, there are “daily deal” sites, like SlickDeals, DealNews and Groupon that give the sites of companies offering deep discounts on selected products. In some instances, companies like Best Buy have daily deals on their websites.

Another way to save is to look for companies who give free shipping based upon a minimum purchase order amount. However, sometimes there are free shipping specials, which are announced on their sites or if you sign up for their emails.

I hope this column helps you save some money. After all, consumer knowledge gives you the power of the purse.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

Enjoy your sales tax holiday weekend.

Martin J. Lecker, Ed.D., is a SUNY distinguished teaching professor of business emeritus. Questions, suggestions or comments may be sent to mlecker@twc.com.

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