Entertainment, Health and Lifestyle

Back to School Brings Out Shopping Lists and Fundraisers, Too

Have I been sleeping in a cave for 100 years? It sure feels like it.

I just read that as a nation, we will spend $41.5 billion getting our kids outfitted to go back to school this fall. And by outfitted I mean with all the “proper” electronic gear, shoes with all the bells and whistles (I would like a pair of those sneakers with little wheels embedded in the soles), backpacks, instruments and of course the ever-popular school supplies.

Yikes! That’s a whole lotta money.

Granted, I don’t have school-aged children anymore, but come on! The average elementary schooler’s must-haves in school supplies, extracurricular fees and technology this year comes in at $1,017; for middle school students, it’s $1,277; and for high school kids, $1,668 each, according to the 13th annual Backpack Index survey from Huntington Bank in Columbus, Ohio.

Look, I’m open to being convinced that I’m wrong, but is this anywhere close to reasonable? Perhaps if you feel you must purchase an entire school year’s worth of pencils, pens, crayons, paper, notebooks, binders, calculators, laptop, printer cartridges, shoes, sneakers, jeans, slacks, sweaters, blouses, shirts, sweaters, socks, undies, sports outfits and paraphernalia. But I would find that to be a little ridiculous in that kids do grow, styles do change and, quite frankly, who wants to do all that laundry?

Spreading the cost over the school year seems more reasonable to me, unless it’s notebook paper, pens and paper. Those are so cheap right now at office supply stores, you really should stock up for the entire year.

So, am I missing something here? I’d love to go head-on with any school-aged family to prove to them that I could get the kids looking mighty fine, and with all the stuff they need in their backpacks for a lot less than this projected per child average.

OK, all of you parents, students, teachers, administrators and grandparents … What am I missing here? Is it really that expensive to get kids back to school?

And while we’re on the subject, let’s throw fundraisers into the discussion.

Every year about this time I get a flood of messages that are some variation of, “I am so sick of my kids bringing home catalogs full of cheap, overpriced stuff that the school expects us to sell. How can we deal with this? I’d love some advice and insight on how other parents do it.”

I remember those days. Of course I wanted my kids to win all the prizes for being the best little fundraisers, which multiplied the pressure we already felt from the school and Little League. I pity all of my co-workers, neighbors, relatives and friends who got caught up in my web of obligation.

Personally, I’m married to a guy who is a big old softy when it comes to children bearing boxes of anything that they’re selling to raise money for their schools and teams. I think we still have a supply of The World’s Finest Chocolate bars left in the refrigerator from last season. And probably a tub or two of cookie dough in the freezer, too. Oh, and gift wrap and candles.

Now that I think about it, maybe I haven’t moved beyond the fundraiser pressure cooker season of my life, after all.

So, how do you deal with school supplies, outfits and fundraisers? I can’t think of a better place to unload, share, question or even plead your case for your particular fundraiser of choice than by using the comments feature at EverydayCheapskate.com/its-ridiculous.

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Mary Hunt

Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/contact/, "Ask Mary." Tips can be submitted at tips.everydaycheapskate.com/ . This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

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