Take a sales-tax holiday

South Carolina's annual sales tax holiday begins today and ends Sunday. This year, with the recent hike in the state sales tax, savings will be bigger than ever.

Until midnight Sunday, all purchases of clothing, computers, school supplies, dormitory gear and more will be exempt from the 6 percent state sales tax. All local and county taxes, such as York County's 1-cent sales tax for roads, "Pennies for Progress," also will be lifted.

That means shoppers will save at least 7 percent on a large range of merchandise. That's 1 percent more than last year because the Legislature eliminated personal property taxes for school operations and raised the sales tax by 1 cent to help make up the lost revenues.

Not everything is tax free, including athletic equipment, jewelry and furniture. But those in the market for a big-ticket item such as a computer might want to consider buying it this weekend.

This tax holiday is touted as a boon to poorer families in the state, especially those who need to buy school supplies for their children. But lawmakers' decision to reduce property taxes while raising the more regressive sales tax will make life harder for many families during the rest of the year.

Nonetheless, state officials note that shoppers have saved nearly $3 million each year since the tax holiday was first implemented in 2000. Shop carefully, and you can save money.