Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Back to School on a Kids' Budget

It's August - time for that annual pilgrimage for back-to-school stuff. Notebooks, pencils, lunchboxes, shoes, clothes. It's a lot of stuff.  Instead of spreading all this shopping out over time, we jam-packed it into a couple days. Good idea or not?  I'm not sure, we'll see if the bank calls with a warning that some crazed person is running all over the county with my bank card.

This year, I gave the kids a budget for their shopping. Each was given a certain amount for all their stuff. All of it. From notebooks to erasers, t-shirts and jeans. Even the smoothie that they had to have while wandering thru the mall. I was only paying for underwear and shoes - one because I did not want them to decide they didn't need them, the other because they'd bust their whole budget getting them.  

You'd be amazed at the difference giving them a finite amount made. Last year and years previous, we argued over whether they really needed the super-duper zippered buttoned pocketed fancy-schmancy $25 3-ring binder. This year, they picked out a basic - but nice, colorful - binder and noticed the $2 off if you bring in an old binder to recycle (at Staples). No arguments.  As opposed to previously when everyone needed their own pack of 20 ink pens, they remembered the pile of pens all over the house, but for the feeling of brand new-ness, they could split a pack.

And recycling? We talked about the wastefulness of the pile of composition books they are required to bring to school each year. I flipped through my son's earlier this summer and in each of his five books, he used maybe 20 pages - maybe. The rest blank. And I've got to get some more this year. "Don't you think it would be a good idea to use these again, because you probably aren't going to use them up this year either?" I asked him.  He agreed that it would be a good idea and the school should make that a rule, because he didn't want to be the only one re-using his notebooks. Okay, I get that.  (Make a note to the principal.)

When we got to the clothes stores, we talked about whether they really wanted to buy a bunch of new shorts and t-shirts, when summer was dwindling down. What were they going to wear by the end of September?  Okay, there was still some begging for a very cute tank top, but they (okay, "she" but not calling anyone out) didn't win that battle.  It was almost comical how quickly they noticed the "text us and get a discount signs" at the various stores - and the cell phones popped out.

And another money saving thing? With each of them in line for their own transactions, we did in total save more money. One store we went to had a $10 off coupon - had I purchased all their stuff at once, like I usually do, I would've save $10. But they each paid for their own stuff, in essence, saving the family $40.  In the meantime, they've been working on their basic math skills - adding, subtracting, estimation, percentages.

But as far as kids' clothes fashion? Ugh. Some of the clothes out there has me wondering how old do designers think 8 years old are? Why does every girl top this season reach just above the belly button and have a lace back? And all the shoes have a heel, even the sneakers!  I'm seriously thinking about suggesting uniforms to the school system. How much easier to order a box of polos and khaki pants and skirts and be done.

I think we're all about done. We may need another pair of shoes or two, if we can find some that are not sequined and high heeled. (Hello - any shoe designers out there?)  Then on to the next phase - labeling everything so that it can be identified in the Lost & Found and packing it all up.

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