Back into the Schoolyard
It Was Great While It Lasted
Every year, as a stay-at-home mom, I missed my older son when he went to school. It was a nice break not having to make macaroni and cheese or grilled cheeses every day and having time to watch NDA shows. (NDA= Not Dylan Appropriate) Last year the beginning of the year was crazy, as I was due to give birth at any time right around him starting school. This year, I wish I could say it isn't as crazy, but anyone who has a baby at home that is already excelling at toddlerhood knows that every day with a toddler is crazy. Having my oldest back at school does sadden me, especially since this begins his last year of elementary school. I wonder if I'm more anxious about "teenhood" approaching than I am about his actual return to school.
As his last school year ended, I wasn't sure I was ready to face having both children home all day long. I was sure I was going to go crazy, but I lucked out and it actually went pretty smoothly. This doesn't mean I can't wait for his return to school however. There was a chorus of "Mom, Mom...." until I could respond back, which meant I often heard about 20 "mom"s. With all that only to be followed by "Hi." The first week, that didn't bother me. Several weeks in, I was pretty sure that I was going to start banging my head against a wall. Having both children at home was hard, as it's hard to entertain 2 children of two very different age ranges without someone getting bored or annoyed. Toss in the lecturing of "yes, you do need to do your summer reading" with "Mom, the baby's stealing the Kindle so I can't do my reading" or "Mom, the baby stole my mouse and I can't play my game!". Then add in a baby that thinks he's magic Mike, and I was ready to toss in my hat and toss up the white flag and every other means of submission. I actually think I went through an entire bottle of Advil for this summer vacation.
Sending your child back to school to save your sanity isn't the only thing that this time of year brings, it also brings a giant hit to your wallet. No fail, children always need new clothes. It isn't always because they grow like weeds and constantly need something new because of it. Those clothes were so last year! We can't blame them though. We remember those days when you just wanted to be the stylish one to fit in or be popular. Then you need new supplies, because at the end every year you get a report card with a note of supplies you need to send your child to school with. My school, for instance, requires us to supply dry erase markers and Lysol wipes in addition to pens and pencils. Because schools can somehow afford 150 iPads, but pencils and pens are too much money...
Us parents need a survival guide to the Back to School Days. Whether you're an old pro, or this is your first time at the rodeo, you need fellow parents to lean on and vent about this time of year that's equally stressful on parent and child. I think I have this figured out as much as any parent can. I'd be interested to see what others have to say on this matter.
Last Year's First Day
Don't Go Insane
Every year, you get a list and a ton of flyers that flash the "new in clothes" for your child to get excited over. My son sticks to a style everyone refers to as "Skater chic", with an unhealthy love of skinny jeans that makes me embarrassed to purchase but I refuse to be that parent that doesn't allow my child to choose his own wardrobe within reason. It's hard as a parent to sort through the school's lists and those advertisements that tell our children who they are supposed to idolize as style icons and what brands and styles they are supposed to wear. This is especially hard on a budget and in a single income family, like mine and many others. I have some secrets, and I hope you enjoy them. This is how I balance the needs and wants of an expensive time of year and I hope it helps.
- Don't fall for those sales. You really need to read the flyers closely. I was reading a Staples flyer, and was excited to see things that said "$1" or "$0.1". Last year, I went there to buy school supplies as a result of the flyer, and everything was much more expensive than I budgeted as a result of the flyer because all their sale items were "sold out" or had fine print next to them in the flyer. I don't believe the items were really sold out, and I realized this was a ploy because people were probably like me and figured "well, I'm already here and I don't feel like going to 10 other stores". Being pregnant and it being hot probably didn't help my patience level. This year, I did read the fine print. It said: "With $5 or more purchase" or "Must buy 10". This year I went to the dollar store and Target, and everything only cost about $10. The dollar store seems like a place to only get cheap stuff, but you'll be pleasantly surprised.
- Make use of those savings. With all the money you can save buy careful purchases of supplies, you can use that for your clothes fund. And you'll probably need it. These days, children start off judging others on their clothes at a much younger age then when we were children. With that, you can buy more quality items for your child. Some major brands are worth the expense because they are durable and will last you the year.
- On the topic of clothes. I cheat this system a little. I stockpile points from Mypoints.com, to save up for gift cards during key times of year like Back to School or Christmas. I find key pieces, like pants and shoes, and buy them in name brands since those are brands children can see and tell what they are. Also, I never pay full price on those items. I surf through clearance racks first. Then I set a limit on price of shirts, say I will only buy shirts under $5. From there, I find whatever name brands fit that limit and my son's style. I then go to a place like Target or Walmart for shirts, underwear and socks because children can't see the difference in a brand on any of those items. Old Navy also has really good sales sometimes on these items and you can get a $20 for $3. Keep an eye out for those sales. I have also found that if you buy a few necessary core items before school, after school starts big sales seem to happen to unload the extras. You can score great deals then too.
- Outlets aren't always the best. Sometimes outlet stores are fantastic. You can really score great stuff for amazing prices. But sometimes, if you don't do your research prior, you're really not paying any less and when you factor in the gas to get to outlets several miles outside of your normal travel, you're actually spending more.
The biggest tip is this: treat this shopping as you would when you shop for any big ticket item. You need to do your research and you can really make out like a bandit. I know I could've added going to second hand stores, and those are also great places to find gems. Also, do not discount stores like Marshall's or TJMaxx. Sometimes you can find deals on stuff there, but be careful because sometimes the quality isn't as great.