Saturday, September 26, 2009

Buying in Chicago

If you've visited Chicago in the past year and made a purchase, you've probably noticed our ridiculous sales tax rate. All purchases are subject to sales tax, which is 2.25% on grocery purchases, 10.25% on general merchandise and even more on liquor and bottled water (5¢/bottle). Which is crazy, because if you want to be healthier drinking water is one of the best things you can do for yourself and sometimes you either run out of the water you brought from home or forgot or didn't expect to be gone as long or what ever, my point is people don't always drink bottled water to be snobby but to hydrate themselves (who would have thought?)

But I digress, this isn't about bottled water, but about the general merchandise tax. The state of Illinois runs about 7% sales tax, and then Cook county adds most of the rest, which is 10% in the immediate suburbs. At a lower rate sales tax doesn't hurt that much and makes you feel like you're helping your state, but at 10% or higher, it really adds to the cost of a product. A $100 pair of jeans turns into a $110 pair of jeans. A recent purchase of $54.50 work pants and a $12.99 top added up to just under $75. It's kind of crazy to think about.

The car-less can make it out to many of these shopping centers in the 'burbs via CTA, but that doesn't save much tax-wise. Neighboring Wisconsin has a low sales tax rates and my native near-by Minnesota doesn't add sales tax to necessities like clothing and food.

But what if a trip just isn't possible? Don't leave home! When you shop online you are only charged state sales tax and many major online retailers offer shipping deals including low flat-rate shipping or free shipping. Go into the store and try on the clothing or check out the products you want, depending on the sales staff, they should be cool with this because in the long run, the money goes back to their company. If they're not just lie and say nothing worked, which really isn't a lie because, in the store, it doesn't work for your wallet. If you're not so good with remembering type a memo into your phone or write down the styles and sizes so you make sure you get the right products.

The next time you try on those awesome jeans, hold off, go home and check out the stores' website. If it doesn't save you money to buy online, they'll be there tomorrow.

Good luck!

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