All families want to stretch their paychecks.
Parents with school-age children and other consumers will have a golden opportunity to save serious cash this weekend -- if they are willing to deal with crowds.
The annual Texas Sales Tax Holiday Weekend will begin at 12:01 a.m. Friday and last until midnight Sunday. Most malls and many retailers in El Paso will have extended hours and are expecting loads of shoppers.
Most clothing, shoes, backpacks and school supplies that
cost less than $100 are exempt from sales taxes for three days.
Texas consumers are expected to save an estimated $64.8 million in state and local taxes this weekend, according to the Texas comptroller's office.
In El Paso, the sales tax rate is 8.25 percent, which means that consumers can save $8.25 for each $100 spent on qualifying items.
"Our back-to-school season is actually bigger than Christmas at Office Depot," said Errol Muller, store manager for the Office Depot on the West Side. Tax-free weekend is "perfect for back-to-school shopping and for parents looking to save as much as possible on school supplies," Muller said.
The company has five stores in El Paso. All of its stores in Texas will stay open to midnight Friday
and will offer special discounts from 9 to midnight that evening, Muller said.
In addition, Office Depot will sell school supplies starting as low as a penny each week during the back-to-school season through early September, Muller said.
Westsider Georgina Panahi has two daughters, ages 6 and 3. They plan to take advantage of the tax-free weekend to stock up on clothes and school supplies.
They will go shopping early Saturday and beat the crowds, Panahi said.
"It's a huge cost savings for any parent," she said.
Just how busy will it be? JCPenney reports that traffic at its stores during tax-free weekend can be as heavy as on Thanksgiving weekend.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, meanwhile, is reminding border crossers to expect busier-than-normal traffic at ports of entry.
Texas is one of 18 states offering tax-free events this back-to-school season, said Kay Bell, contributing tax editor for Bankrate.com, a national personal-finance website.
"Shoppers like it," Bell said. "It's a great bonus for shoppers who are buying kids clothes for school anyway. Shoppers are potential voters. Anything that makes potential voters happy, lawmakers usually sign on to."
Consumers need to remember to try not "to get suckered into buying items that aren't tax-free this weekend," Bell said.
"That can negate any savings," Bell said.
At Bassett Place, the tax-free weekend is the third-busiest time of year, behind Christmas and Mother's Day-Easter, said marketing manager Marguerite Byers.
The mall will be have extended hours Friday through Sunday. It will also have a back-to-school fair featuring entertainment, arts and crafts for kids and art vendors on Saturday and Sunday.
Costco, one of Bassett's anchor tenants, will have a grand reopening to celebrate its renovation and reorganization of its store on Saturday, Byers said. There will be an open house for nonmembers, but you need to be a member to make purchases. A free car show will take place in the Costco parking lot, she added.
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