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Keeping Back to School Sane

It’s coming up on time to send the kids back to school, and you know what that means.

Time to shop for all the supplies your child will need for school. Backpacks, pens, pencils, folder, binders, maybe some new clothes. All of this can really add up.

And it’s a hard time to keep a lot of it green even if some of your purchases are intended to help keep your school year overall greener, such as planning waste-free lunches.

At my daughter’s school, we are just asked to provide some basic supplies for the classroom, which will be shared. First graders aren’t expected to handle bringing all their own supplies, which makes sense to me considering how much of their work is done on teacher-provided worksheets.

For that I did go by the list the school provided and picked out an assortment of items from that list. The list had a big emphasis on the name Crayola for the crayons, for example, and as they’re a shared resource I suspect that’s to be sure of the kids all getting equal quality when they use the crayons

For my daughter’s backpack, I had a goal of buying one that would last her at least two years. Being a thoroughly commercialized kid despite my efforts, she first wanted a Dora one. But since I knew that would be a poor choice for first grade and worse for second, she didn’t get it.

Can I say how grateful I am that she doesn’t like Hannah Montana? That’s despite one of her friends telling her last year that “everyone” likes Hannah Montana. So proud that she still didn’t care.

The next pick was a lunch bag. Last year’s bag was thrashed to say the least, with a stench that would not come out, due to her habit of not quite closing her drink containers and leaving food lose in it, instead of back in the containers.

Fortunately, the containers themselves are still in good condition, so all we needed was a new bag. Our budget is exceptionally tight this year, with my husband only freshly back at work, so we just stuck with what we could find at Target. I’d like to ensure that we go PVC free in the future, but this year my one concern was lead free.

Why does that have to be a concern anyhow? You’d think companies would know better by now.

The key to keeping all of this sane is thinking carefully about what it is your child really needs for school. Don’t overdo it on the supplies. Make sure that backpacks and lunch bags will be suitable for more than just the current school year.

And really don’t overdo it on the back to school clothes. I suspect that’s where some of the worst overspending can occur. It’s fun for kids to look a little extra nice the first day, and that often extends to much of a new wardrobe.

Some of that can be necessary. Long pants, often mostly unworn during the summer, may suddenly be too short. Other clothes just don’t fit right anymore. Some clothes shopping probably has to be done.

Remember that there will be other occasions where buying clothes will also make sense. Look at your child’s wardrobe and see how many outfits were hardly worn at all, despite not being outgrown. That can give you an idea as to how much you should be cutting back. You may also find clothes that still fit nicely and look just fine.

I always set aside some of the “still fits but thrashed” clothes for play clothes. My kids love having clothes that they can get as dirty as they want. Believe me, that’s pretty amazingly dirty. I figure that if they’re ruining only a certain number of clothes, that’s more that will survive to go to the thrift store, where some other child will benefit.

Remember that back to school is a great time to teach your child that you don’t have to keep up with what everyone else has. There’s no need to have the latest of everything, or the trendiest clothes. It can be a hard lesson, but if your kids learn it well you can really save your sanity, your money and shop green.

4 Responses to Keeping Back to School Sane

  1. Thankfully my little one is only in preschool (where I teach part of the week) so buying stuff is not needed. Her birthday is coming up soon and we are part of a community of families that pass clothes on so buying clothes is not something that we “have” to do plus her birthday and Christmas are coming up so there’s another reason not to bu them. But the lunch bag was something I needed. I will be ordering something from “reusable bags” soon but like everything else it’s a money issue.

  2. That’s how it was when I started my daughter in preschool too. Just had to buy her a lunchbox, and then the second year she really wanted a backpack, which lasted her through kindergarten, which isn’t too bad considering the abuse she gave it.

    We may be getting handmedown clothes for my daughter soon too. My sister’s girls are a year older and a year younger, but both wear the same size and are wearing larger clothes than my daughter. I sure won’t turn them away!

  3. I’m a BIG fan of thrift store shopping & donating. Also, we find families with kids older or younger than our kids, and we gladly solicit them to give or accept hand-me-downs.
    Why not recycle clothes too!!!?

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