A New Milestone of Spending

Life, especially with little ones, makes note of highlighting milestones. We capture these little-big moments with priceless photos and memories of such occasions. Some are exciting, others are terrifying but then there are those that are simply costly. Your first car, your first house, a college education- all $$$ items. In the world of wants v. needs all of these things, with your first car being an arguable exception, are needs (do not question the college education, I work in higher-ed) lol but anyhow, the truth is sometimes the most basic needs do cost money, in fact most do; and it really comes down to tight budget and careful planning and spending to ensure that we don’t unravel our wallets to meet basic needs.

Herein lies the Fowler’s latest milestone of spending: Back to School (BTS).

I’ve been dreading these last couple days, and the upcoming ten, for five years. Moms know what I’m talking about, the first day of Kindergarten. The preparation alone brings about an unwelcomed wave of emotion and instability. It invites a whole new level of worry, doubt and concern. It makes time speed up when all you’re trying to do is make it slow down. As a mom of girls, I also feel like the introduction of back to school shopping is a milestone in it’s own right. The prologue to the main story, important enough to read but carried throughout. When I was growing up BTS shopping was what we looked forward to all summer. Now as the mom, I look forward to introducing and carrying on this tradition but before I get lost in the planning and occasion of mother/daughter memories-in-the-making, my mind halts, what is this going to cost me???

Typically we do all of our shopping, Brent and I included, at consignment shops. I really appreciate teaching the girls that things go full-circle. I have very open and honest conversations with Madilyn about cost, savings, investment and taking care of our things, although the various items with marker drawings do not echo my parenting but I swear, I do have these conversations. My girls both know what the orange stickers mean at the grocery store, they are well aware of coupons and we are working on not teaching them about not being impulse spenders. So, when it comes to back to school shopping whether it’s for supplies or clothes it seems easy that one could get carried away. Especially with the first real occasion on the horizon for so many. To best stay on track and on budget I’ve decided to make and share a list of tips that I will try to follow while shopping and preparing for school.

Here’s what I’ve come up with:

*Rule number 1: Shop at home first! Don’t simply print the list and head to the store when you have pencils, pens, erasers, scissors, fall dresses that haven’t been worn, nice jeans sitting in the back of the dresser, etc. Whether it’s school supplies or clothes I guarantee you can cross at the very least one thing off your list that you already have around the house.

*Don’t fall for the dollar store trap! Many dollar stores list their lowest price at $1. This may seem great but local box stores may cut prices even more. So shop around. We picked up college ruled spiral bound notebooks for $0.19 each. HUGE SAVINGS!

*Sign-up online. Many of our local kids shops have online fliers and coupons. I have an email address that I only use for this type of bulk mail. I go through it a couple times a week but what’s great is I always get the notifications for when shops like Once Upon a Child, Kroger or other kids boutiques are having major sale events.

*Pick one thing to invest in. Is there one item that you know you’re child will wear down? If so, shop around for the best price but maybe let this be that one “special item” that they can pick out from the mall. For Madz it’s shoes. She can wear out shoes like nothing, so buying shoes from one of the consignment shops doesn’t make a lot of sense since they are worn in/out to some extent already.

*Don’t fear consignment. I never understood the reputation and opinion many offer of recycled clothing. I give my clothes to these shops and if mine are good enough to be sold there then we are certainly not above shopping there and if anyone with a strong opinion ever tried to sell clothes at some of these shops I think they’d be surprised just how selective their process for buy back really is.

In the end, back to school shopping is really about the value of the time spent together. I don’t remember anything ever purchased, the memory of BTS shopping was a special day with mom or dad. A cheap lunch, lots of 1:1 time, and something that made me feel like I was growing up a bit. It’s a wonderful milestone that doesn’t have to cost a lot.

Good luck!


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