Sales tax holiday: So little time, so little savings
© by Barbara Anderson
The Salem News
Thursday, August 21 2008
year I'm afraid I flunked "sales tax holiday."
As a taxpayer activist, I feel I have an obligation to my craft to
take advantage of any tax break, no matter how silly it seems
relative to my low-consumption lifestyle. So for the past few years,
I have put off purchase of many basic household items like batteries
and laundry detergent until mid-August, then bought a year's worth.
Last year I got really lucky when my refrigerator died just in time
for me to replace it on the sales tax holiday.
This year I had big savings plans too. I'd decided to use my $600
federal tax refund to replace my 30-year-old kitchen floor; I put
the money in my savings account until I could buy the vinyl tile
without paying a sales tax. A double taxpayer coup!
I wasn't concerned when House Speaker Sal DiMasi gave the impression
that this year there would be no holiday. I figured he just said
that to discourage people like me from putting off purchases,
slowing the already slow retail economy until the middle of August.
I was pretty sure he'd let the holiday bill pass at almost the last
minute, which he did.
But there were too many free hours spent in the hammock or watching
the Olympics, and not enough spent organizing my shopping weekend.
Then my nephew from a former marriage and his partner came from
Scotland for a visit on Wednesday; they stayed in my guest room so I
got invited to the family/friend meals and was too busy even to clip
the small-purchase coupons for the weekend.
By the time I went to Home Depot last Friday, it was too late to
schedule the professional kitchen measurement and get the estimate
for the two types of vinyl flooring I was considering. Trisha, the
very helpful woman in the flooring department, told me if I chose
one I could pay for it on the weekend, but I just couldn't make up
my mind until I learned the difference in price — which in either
case isn't so much as to be worth all the rushing around.
I once dreamed of that expensive terracotta tile, but now I realize
I don't want to fall down on anything that hard when I am old; and
also recall that I broke almost every glass and china dish I owned
when I lived in Greece with its marble floors and counters. No, give
me something I and my ceramic coffee mugs can bounce off.
When Sales Tax Holiday Saturday arrived, I had to skip it because of
two political events. First was the annual Marblehead Republican
Town Committee picnic at noon. They are nice enough to invite me
even though as an Independent I'm not still technically part of that
family either. Along with good company and food, I got a great deal
on an iPod clock radio at the picnic auction. (Can I count that "bid
purchase" towards my sales tax savings?)
I also picked up my "Jeff Beatty for U.S. Senate" bumper sticker,
had a chat with 8th Essex state representative candidate Johnny
Blaisdell, and met Richard Baker, who is running for Congress
against Salem's John Tierney. And I noted to myself that electing
the right people could save me more money than the sales tax holiday
So on to another event in Billerica for another state rep candidate,
Tony Lucacio. No, I don't do every political function I'm invited
to, preferring to focus on candidates in my home district; but this
was a spaghetti dinner featuring my friend Sandy MacMillan's
homemade spaghetti sauce! And Chip and I picked up his father on the
"Family and food" vs. "shopping and savings" on the weekend: not a
tough choice so far.
Sales Tax Holiday Sunday arrived, a rare sunny day. We had planned
to visit friends in Scituate, but Chip was still recovering from his
solo sail to Chebeague Island in Maine's Casco Bay. He returns from
even fair-weather cruises bruised and bleeding, and this vacation
was filled with rain, lightning, fog and waves that forced him into
ports along the coast, so his trip was longer than he had intended.
He spent Sales Tax Holiday Sunday on his boat airing and drying out
the cabin and everything aboard, with I'm sure a nap thrown in
during the afternoon.
The hammock beckoned and I have a moral dislike of shopping on
Sunday anyhow. But I did need cat food, so I drove to PetSmart,
where I also bought Gilgamesh a new scratching post — my only
"impulse" buy — while replacing his collar for the third time this
Sales tax savings: $2.08. Spent it at Taco Bell.
Stopped at the drugstore for batteries, lotions, and new tapes for
Olympic clips for my grandchildren, who don't have television. Saved
Almost out of money because I didn't have time to go to the bank
Saturday, so I could save only $1.85 on usually taxable items at
Stop & Shop. Put it in the Jimmy Fund box.
On my way home, the car radio played "Summertime, and the livin' is
easy," and so the sales tax holiday was over for me.
But as I write this my dishwasher is rumbling. I wonder if it will
last until next August?
Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her
column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle Tribune
newspapers; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in
the Lowell Sun, Providence (RI) Journal and other newspapers.