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'Every little bit helps'
Some families try to beat the rush on first day of tax-free weekend

DULUTH - Marina Brunett said she's always willing to wait for savings. Even just 6 percent savings.

The Lilburn resident said she planned to spend a couple hundred dollars to make sure her kids were adequately clothed and prepared for their return to school, and she decided to put those purchases off until Georgia's Sales Tax Holiday began Thursday. Why?

"I'm really cheap, so the sales tax holiday sounds good to me," Brunett said. "I almost never buy full price. I never think things should cost what they're charging."

A report by the National Retail Federation said families with school-age children are expected to spend $563.08 on back-to-school merchandise this year.

If Georgia families actually do spend that much on school-related items and they shop during the tax-free period, which continues until Sunday at midnight, it'll result in average savings of $33.78. With gas prices currently around $2.80, that's about half a tank of gas for a minivan.

Hardly major savings, but the sales tax holiday seemed to be the reason behind many families' trips to Gwinnett Place Mall on Thursday.

"Every little bit helps," said Fred Haab of Lilburn, who has a 5-year-old and an 8-year-old returning to school in a couple of weeks. "With all the kids' clothes and supplies and even our clothes, it adds up."

But while the hype of the sales tax holiday may draw shoppers out, it's the stores' additional sales that really produce noticeable savings.

"Is it substantial?" Patricia Swint asked of the tax savings. "Probably not. But because it's a holiday, they put a lot of sales out, too."

Put simply by Haab: "Half price adds up a lot faster than six percent off."

The foot traffic at Gwinnett Place Mall didn't look wildly out of the ordinary Thursday, the first tax-free day, but the county's malls expect Friday through Sunday to be busy times.

"It's one of the top three times of the year for us," said Shelley Korenbrot, director of marketing for Gwinnett Place Mall.

SideBar: At a glance

What: Georgia's sales tax holiday

When: Continues today through Sunday at midnight

What is exempt:

' Clothing and footwear up to $100 per item (does not include clothing accessories, such as jewelry, handbags, eyewear, watches and similar items)

' School supplies bought for classroom use or classroom-related activities up to $20 per item

' Personal computers and accessories are exempt up to $1,500 per transaction