Shopping in the US

Shopping in the US  

Before I left to the US one of my friends told me to come here with an empty suitcase. He said that their daughter comes to New York every year. With an empty baggage there and she leaves back to Slovakia with a full one. I didn´t want to believe that until I didn´t come here too and before moving to San Francisco had to send home a big box full of clothes. So far I have been in San Francisco for three months only but I already have prepared another full box. I have my new friends there: Gucci, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, Columbia, Polo, I want to buy Michael Kors watch and of course I can´t leave this country without a new iPhone, right… As I read these lines now, I might sound like a big materialist. But let´s talk about this topic another time. Now we should focus on how is it possible that I can afford all these things. Yes, it is cheap. But before you book your flight ticket for shopping in New York let´s take a look how is it to do shopping in this country.

Taxes in the United States

Your biggest enemy during your shopping will be taxes. Shopping in the US is very interesting since you don´t see the final prize on the tag. To make it even more confusing, the food tax is different than the clothes tax. And there is a different value for the electronics tax. And so on and on… To make it even more complicated, each state in the US has different values of taxes and so you never know the final price of your purchase. Pretty interesting, isn´t it?

Shopping clothes and shoes

Depends what you are looking for. If you have a favorite brand and you don´t want to shop in outlets (in the US you will find a huge “outlet villages” where you can spend the whole day), I am pretty sure you will pick up something in their shops. One quote on internet says: “If you want to buy something, you will find it in New York on sale.” I don´t know if this is truth but if you don´t care whether you´ll get Adidas or Nike and all you care about is the prize, go to Marshalls or T.J.Maxx. It is a chain of stores that belongs to the TJX Companies, Inc. – the biggest retail store with clothes and home fashion in the US. You will find here your favorite brands for nice (and most often super low) prizes. If you are looking for furniture, you will find it in its affiliates HomeGoods. And if you think US is too far away, I have a solution for you as well. TJX has its European affiliates too – for clothes it is TK Maxx that you will find in England, Austria, Ireland, Germany, Poland, Netherlands and Australia and for furniture HomeSense which is in Canada, England and Ireland. The only “problem” is that TK Maxx is much smaller and more expensive than American T.J. Maxx or Marshalls.      

Food, food, food…

This will be another interesting chapter. If you decide to go for a dinner to an average American restaurant, prepare at least $15 per person and some change as a tip. The minimum tip is 10% of your total. Most often once you get a receipt, there will be already calculated how much is 10%, 15%, 20% and 25% and so you don´t have to bother by counting. Waiters just like in Slovakia live from their tips and so it is required from you to tip them. Prepare your wallets in cafeterias too (I am not talking about Starbucks which is something like McDonald´s in Slovakia) because even here you could leave them those 10%. You could but it´s not a must.

Talking about groceries, they are very expensive here. And taxes apply on them by a very interesting way. As I read in one article:  “In most states throughout the U.S., consumers visiting a supermarket would not pay state sales taxes on their bacon and eggs for the week, but often would pay sales tax on a ready-made rotisserie chicken. If they pick up a Hershey’s® bar in the checkout line, that is likely subject to the sales tax, but if they pick up a Twix® bar, that likely is not. A bag of potato chips is usually exempt from the sales tax when purchased at a grocery store, but if purchased at a deli across the street, the chips would likely be subject to the sales tax.“ It makes sense, right? Another research says that the most expensive grocery store that you can find across the whole country is Whole Foods. On the other side it is also considered as the most famous and popular grocery store here.

What about electronics?

Electronics here is seriously cheaper than in Slovakia. What can happen to you on the borders is paying the toll of the foreign product brought to another country. If you travel to Slovakia, you don´t pay toll unless your product´s value is less than 150€. A toll that you might pay will be 3-11% of its value, depending on the product you have. Other than paying toll you might pay the taxes. If you send a product that´s value is over 22€, they will charge you for paying taxes which is 20% of the product´s value. But I will give you a simple advice how to avoid all the payments – just cut off all the labels, tags, throw away all the product´s boxes and act like you already came to the US with those things. And if somebody asks on the value of the products, just write down prize less than 22€. It is so simple. As long as you don´t plan to bring five newest iPhones for further selling in Slovakia…

Do you think we can find a state where you don´t have to pay taxes?

Don´t you think it would be a paradise if there was a state where you don´t have to pay taxes? Well, let me cheer you up because you can find such in the US too! But don´t get your hopes up because the fact that you don´t have to pay taxes doesn´t necessarily mean that the product will be cheaper than somewhere else. But don´t you think it would be nice to buy a new phone or a laptop without paying taxes for it? This dream can come true in states Delaware, Montana, Oregon and New Hampshire.

Last year´s researches say that state New York is on 10th place of states with the highest applied taxes, California is on the 9th place, Illinois on the 7th place and Tennesse is on the 1st place. Talking about the most expensive touristic destinations in the US, New York City is on the 1st place, Hawaiian Maui is on the 2nd place and San Francisco is on the 8th place. To the top 10 belongs also Philadelphia, Nashville, Boston, Austin, Washington D.C., Asheville in North Carolina and Charleston in South Carolina. So at the end that New York´s shopping shouldn´t be that bad but surviving in New York City with your minimum budget is another topic to discuss. And let me give you a small bug in your head: by car or bus you can get very fast and cheap from NYC to the closest state where no taxes apply – Delaware… And by the way, Oregon is pretty close to Seattle as well.

Enjoy your shopping!