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Is Tax Free Weekend Too Taxing?

It’s the season of spending for parents of school-aged kids. And no matter how well you plan, pencil cases, new sneakers and graphing calculators can put a dent in anyone’s budget.

Tax free weekend kicks off today, but some North Texans are wondering, is saving sales tax worth braving the crowds and picked over supplies?

The beep of a cash register will be a constant refrain at Texas stores this weekend. Everything from backpacks to bow-ties are tax exempt Friday through Sunday, but to some Target shoppers stocking up Thursday, it’s not worth the hassle.

“I did it a couple of times when it first came out and it was great but I weighed the stress versus the savings and I think my sanity is worth more than the savings that I get,” says Cheryl Yarbrough.

Yarbrough lives in Ferris with her family. She has three kids in school this year, so her to-buy list is extensive, but she’s a dedicated couponer and has a year-round bulk buy strategy that pays off.

“I actually have it organized where I have an ongoing supply of school supplies throughout the year, because they run out throughout the year,” she says. “So I kind of catch up when they have sales like this and stock up on things. I may not necessarily need it now, but I may need it later on in the year.”

Shirelle Horace lives in Garland and is buying for a kindergartener and a high school senior this year. She tries to recycle clothes and school supplies that are still fresh from last year to save money. But even so, she’s forked over a bundle getting ready for the first bell in 2013.

“My son has expensive taste and you know, he’s a boy, with big feet. So I’ve probably spent close to $1,000,” Horace admits.

But Horace says she too was willing to eat the sales tax if that meant avoiding the crowds this weekend.

At the Timbercreek Wal-Mart on Northwest Highway in Dallas, shoppers were already filling their carts will school supplies Thursday afternoon. Elva Najera says you don’t have to wait for tax free specials when Elmer’s glue is two for a dollar and spiral notebooks are 17 cents. But with two children to outfit this school year, she’s saving one major purchase for this weekend.

“Just the shoes,” she says. “Every little bit helps, I guess.”

Nathan Farner thinks the same way. He’s happy to spring for pencils and folders early, but waits on the expensive duds until they’re tax free.

“Absolutely, look for school clothes. School clothes on tax free weekend,” laughs Farner.

But whether they’re sold on staking out tax free deals, or just want to avoid the whole scene, all the parents we talked to seem to agree on one thing. Grandparents should be the ones to splurge on big ticket items like designer shoes and monogrammed backpacks.

Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.