Notebooks and Markers and Pens, Oh My! Back-to-School Costs Big Buck$

Written on August 22, 2013 at 5:56 pm , by

Well, I couldn’t put it off any longer—the time was nigh to bite the bullet and go school-supply shopping. Nearly two hours and $150 later, I have two sizable shopping bags (my kids are going into first and fourth grades) on the floor of my linen closet. Back-to-school is the second-biggest shopping season of the year after Christmas (natch), according to the D.C.-based National Retail Federation. Spending in 2013 was forecast at $635 on average for clothes and supplies, down slightly from $689 in 2012. Almost 26% of families will ask kids to reuse items from last year, a stat that speaks to me personally as I decide whether to spring for a new backpack for my daughter. (My son got one recently as a birthday gift, negating this as an issue with him.) The bag she got last year for kindergarten was used lightly and remains in perfectly fine shape, IMHO. It’s a pretty, somewhat standard Pottery Barn Kids pattern—which I offer by way of saying, it’s not like there’s a lame character from an outdated movie on it. It would be fine for first grade. But she’s asking, repeatedly, for something “new” and “different.” Practical Me wants to say, “Last year’s is fine” and have that be that. Yet there is absolutely a part of me that wants her to be excited about a new school year—and if a fresh backpack would help lessen the blow of saying so long to summer, so be it. Truth is, we’ve already dropped a substantial amount of money this month, between supplies and fall clothes, since both kids grew like weeds this summer, outgrowing most if not all of their stuff from spring. In other words, buying a backpack won’t make or break the budget. Normally I’m a decisive mom, but with this one I’m on the fence. Is it a not-great precedent to set, replacing something that doesn’t need replacing? Probably. But I always got a new school bag when I was growing up—seems like a nice tradition.

Do you request (or require) that your kids reuse school supplies whenever possible? Tell me and share your rationale in the comments, please.

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