Back to School Time, for Better or Worse

Important tips to remember when you're getting your kids ready to go back to school.

For parents, sometimes fall represents the best time of the year…back to school.  For me personally, I like knowing my kids are back on some kind of schedule; I believe the kids actually feel the same way. Not.

Back to school time is usually met with a mixture of excitement and trepidation; however, because of all the hoops you must jump through to get your children innoculated, have their dental visits completed, register them, get physicals, and get all the many forms properly filled out. But that is not the most important part. Oh no. It’s back to school shopping.

When my children ranged in age from 6-10, it was so much easier. We’d pick a night in early July, run to the department store, and there would begin the momentous task of trying on many different outfits and school shoes.  It seemed we always unintentionally picked the day that every other mother in the entire school shopping galaxy was also there. We'd put them on layaway and the entire way home I would explain over and over how layaway works...because the kids didn't understand why we didn't bring our stuff home.

Finally, six weeks later, the big pick up day. At home, they exclaimed excitedly over everything, sorting it into piles. They would sometimes forget exactly what they had picked out, and that was fun all over again. Life was good.

Once they hit a certain age, however, it was all different. The stores we used to frequent were suddenly not cool anymore. Layaways were still fine, but they had to be somewhere other than a store that ended in “mart” (much to my frugal dismay).

Suddenly, little kids who used to be satisfied with a little dress and cute socks or a pair of jeans and a T- shirt that ran me less than $20 per outfit, now were big tall fashion conscious teens, asking for clothes that cost quite a bit more than $20.  Like, LOTS more. You bet your sweet Abercrombie.

The fees and costs associated with back to school time are hefty enough, but add clothing onto that stack, and you have the makings of a pretty big financial dent.  Here are some ideas, though. 

Parents, if you think you qualify, make sure you fill out a free lunch application.  You might be  surprised. If you don’t qualify for the free lunch program, you still may qualify for reduced lunch.  Either way, if you qualify for free or reduced lunch programs, you don’t pay book fees or sports fees…and you will have some extra cash to clothe your growing children. Years of "back to school" time taught me that. 

Stock up on school supplies when they first hit the store; you may find the lowest prices then. I also tend to buy the bundle of notebooks Target and Walmart sell for 15 cents each…and I buy a LOT of them. You don’t need paper just at the start of school, after all.

For parents with athletes, watch your local paper for deals at different medical offices that offer low cost sports physicals.  We stumbled upon one a couple of years ago that was $10 per child.  If you have more than one child in a sport, it can really add up to big savings.

Also, take your walking, talking fashion plate over to your local Plato’s Closet. For teens who love brand names but moms who hate the cost, this store can be a real life saver.  You can find high quality, name brand jeans, shirts, coats, or shoes for a fraction of what you would pay in a department store. They are almost always of high quality and in great shape…and an entire outfit here could cost you under $20.

You know, just like in the olden days.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Mason Frost August 02, 2012 at 01:22 PM
Unfortunately the assistance programs are no longer helping just those who need the SHORT-TERM lift but also those that have the means lest for their poor decisions/values. Maybe an article focusing on financial frugality is warranted. Should your kids each have cell phones, do they need to be in every sport (especially traveling sports which are very expensive), should you continue to have children when you know you can not support them? You can not have everything if you yourself can not pay for it. Kids today are not taught to make choices based on a limited budget and the difference between a need and a want. This is often an unfulfilled parental responsibility and is at the core of today's problems. Thanks to the government (Federal and State IL) personal accountability no longer exists. Poor decisions have no consequences so long as a safety net woven from our tax dollars exists. This is not sustainable so enjoy it while it lasts.


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