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Why you should never shop on the tax-free weekend

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By: CHRISTIE ELKINS

Last year, I fully believed that a shopping excursion during Tennessee’s official tax-free weekend would be a plan of sheer brilliance.
School supplies, computers and clothing­—all sans taxation?
It seemed sublime. Turns out, it was a rather horrific experience that only the strongest of shoppers can overcome.
Did I really need to save 9.25 percent on marker boards and glitter pencils for my home-schooled children?
The answer is no—no I did not.
I sent my brother a picture as I was sitting in a dead stop on the entrance ramp to the land of wide ruled paper and thermal lunchboxes.
A picture of cars, as far as the eye could see.
A sea of red from the angry brake lights that cast a blur over my foggy windshield, already covered in sticky fingerprints and deceased insects. My brother quickly replied with the following: “You are a moron.”
Good call, brother.
First stop was a local consignment store.
Let’s consign our gently used clothing for some school supplies, shall we?
I parked in the no parking zone, walked three kids inside and kicked a laundry basket full of items into the store with my foot.
The bustling boutique was swarming with money-saving mothers just like myself, trying in vain to make a few bucks on an outfit their daughter wore one time two years ago.  
I left in a rush, dragging three kids out who desperately desired to look at used toys and ballerina tutus.
At least I didn’t have to kick that basket back out.
That was reserved for my return trip.
In an effort to pass the time, I decided to visit the used bookstore in hopes to uncover some homeschool textbooks for my then 5-year-old.  Super crowded, yet again.
I presented each child with a string cheese and a drink. We were in the store a total of 15 minutes, and returned with an Eric Carle book, a Sleeping Beauty book and a Diego book. And string cheese stuck to my ballet flats. And one homeschool book that I did not realize was copyright 2003, until the purchase was complete. A lot has changed in the world of science since then, right?
I don’t know. I just homeschool.
I get the call from the consignment store to return and pick up my items. They offer me $14. I’ll take it. Just get me out of here, I scream internally, kicking that laundry basket full of my unwanted items all the way to the minivan. All that kicking knocked off that piece of string cheese on my shoe, though. Things were looking up.
I then made the executive decision that the only cure for a stress-filled weekend cruising the crossroads was a trip to Target— you know—to get those school supplies for 10 cents less than I would two days later.
I found my daughter a new dance leotard, grabbed a few bulletin boards, a marker board and a few more packs of flash cards to add to my extensive collection.
I commenced the rush toward the front, with my 2-year-old son hanging halfway out of the buggy, wailing, with an intense country accent: “I WAANNA BATMAN TOOOY!”
At the time, he hadn’t the slightest idea who Batman was. But, it was tax-free weekend, and anything goes—including tantrums over toys.
Moving on.
I paid for my items, when suddenly I heard the heavens part and rain cascade down on the roof of the store. I observed customers gasping in horror, running into the store, with clothing drenched and panting from the dash.
I walked slowly to the exit and joined about 50 other wide-eyed store patrons next to the automatic doors, just staring at a monsoon so violent you could literally not see the cars in the parking lot.
One must remember I already fed the kids string cheese at the bookstore, we were low on juice and no one wanted Cheerios.
I was at a zero on the patience level, and it was suppertime.
No one got a Batman toy, and I left the umbrella in the van.
In other words, I found myself at a pivotal crossroads in decision making: Wait an eternity for the shower to subside, or throw caution to the wind and fight the rain.
I looked for something— anything—to shield the children.
Then I spotted it, in all its crumb-filled glory: the cart cover.  
I pulled my 1-year-old out of the buggy seat, removed the cart cover, and placed him back down in that red plastic cart with questionable buckle straps.
I lifted my 5-year-old into the buggy with my 2-year-old, those bulletin boards and some juice I found on clearance.
Squeezing their three heads together as closely as possible, I draped the cart cover over them and absconded into the abyss of thunderstorm and tantrum.
We were four parking spaces from the front door of Target. I was forced to click the unlock button on my key fob continuously so the taillights would illuminate a visible path to our safe haven of transportation.
I jerked open the sliding door, and began throwing stuff in—juice, flash cards, kids.
As I glanced around the van, now filled with soaked children, soggy cereal, and tax-free treasures, the only thing I could find to wipe away the remnants of a persistent precipitation was a stained onesie or an old sock. This would have to do.
Being quickly reminded that it was indeed time for supper, I set forth toward a restaurant that had a kids-eat-free menu. I had pledged to exhaust all economical efforts, and I did not intend to surrender short-handed.However, it was kids-eat-free PER adult, and I was unaccompanied with three carnivorous children.
At this point, I was not leaving.
As they tore into their tacos, ravaged the rice and lapped up the sour cream, I could still feel the water running in a steady stream down my faded mom jeans. We loaded up, noted that the showers had ceased at last and that the van housed the pungent aroma of salsa and mildew all the way home.
Did I stop at Starbucks on the trek home? You bet. I earned that raspberry mocha. And a new pair of ballet flats.
I am certain I saved a bundle on school supplies shopping 45 minutes from my home on a tax-free weekend — a mistake I will never make again.
Black Friday, however? BRING. IT. ON.