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KOMU Compares School Supply Prices for Back to School Sales Tax Holiday

Posted: Aug 2, 2013 4:43 PM by Sam Hustis, KOMU 8 Reporter
Updated: Aug 2, 2013 11:51 PM

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COLUMBIA - This weekend's sales tax holiday on school supplies makes this one of the cheapest times to prepare for the return to class. KOMU 8 News set out to find the best places to maximize savings.

Missouri's annual holiday starts Friday and runs through Sunday. On these days, there will be no state sales tax on items such as school supplies, clothing and personal computers.

"It proves to be a popular holiday each year," said Michelle Gleba, the Director of Communications for the Missouri Department of Revenue.

"It's a busy time of year where many parents are getting things done and trying to get their back to school shopping out of the way, so it seems to fit in at the right time of year," Gleba said.

The Missouri Department of Revenue's website has a special section that has a complete list of what the tax holiday covers, but it can basically be broken down to the following items:

  • Clothing - any article valued at $100 or less
  • School supplies - not to exceed $50 per purchase
  • Computer software - valued at $350 or less
  • Personal computers - not to exceed $3,500
  • Computer related devices - not to exceed $3,500

With countless stores selling back to school merchandise, KOMU 8 News wanted to compare prices between major retailers around Columbia to find the best value.

The comparison focuses on five items found on most major school supply lists. To keep the comparisons as accurate as possible, KOMU 8 News found common brand for each item. They are as follows:

  • 24 count crayons - Crayola
  • Eight count washable markers - Crayola
  • 24 count No. 2 pencils - Ticonderoga
  • 1.5 inch 3-ring binder - Avery
  • 100 page spiral notebook - 5 Star

We went to five different stores in Columbia to compare the prices: Wal-Mart, Target, Staples, Office Depot, and Hy-Vee. In a few cases, the stores did not sell some of the five items, so the closest alternative was chosen.

Product Wal-Mart Target Staples Office Depot Hy-Vee
Crayons $0.50 $0.50 $1.00 $1.29 $1.59*
Markers $1.97 $1.99 $2.00 $4.19 $3.99
Pencils $3.96 $3.99 $4.99 $4.99 $5.07* (30)
3-Ring Binder $4.97 $6.61 $8.49 $5.49* $4.99*
Spiral Notebook $1.44 $3.99 $2.99 $5.99 $3.29
Total Cost $12.84 $17.08 $19.47 $21.95 $18.93

* Denotes closest alternative

As the chart shows, Wal-Mart was the cheapest place to shop for supplies, $9.11 less than the most expensive store, Office Depot.

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