“The difference between school and life? In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.” – Tom Bodett

This Friday, our teen daughter goes back to school.  In years past, this has resulted in a flurry of shopping and spending lots of money.  Many years have seemed like a virtual shopping orgy, with multiple trips for clothing and school supplies.

This year, because my wife has been without steady work for several months, we aren’t in a position to spend a huge amount of money on clothing and school supplies.  We’ve taken a really good hard look at our daughter’s wants versus her needs, and we’ve been addressing the needs only.

In years past, we’ve been given an extensive list of school supplies that were required for each student on the first day of class.  The very first year our daughter was placed with us, we bought everything on the list as requested.  We soon learned that only a few items from the list were needed immediately, and about half the items were never used at all.

If we’d waited to buy stuff until the teacher assigned work that required the extra supplies, we could have saved ourselves quite a bit of money.

Our daughter’s current school doesn’t send home a shopping list each year, so we’ve decided to confine our shopping to the basics – some pencils and a large package of notebook paper.  Our daughter’s binder from last year is still in excellent condition, and she doesn’t need a new backpack, since she has at least three others she’s received in the past year as gifts.

As for back-to-school clothing, we’ve taken a very careful look at our daughter’s wardrobe.  At almost 14 years old, she’s no longer growing quickly, so most of the clothing we’ve purchased over the last year still fits.  Although we might buy her a couple of new things, she definitely doesn’t need an entire new wardrobe right now.

Our daughter has a birthday coming up in October, and the December holidays are just a few months away, so we’ll probably use those gift-giving opportunities to add to her wardrobe.  She also enjoys spending her allowance on clothing, so she may end up buying a few things herself.

In a nutshell, here’s our plan for our school shopping this year:

  1. Buy only the things our daughter absolutely needs now.
  2. Defer purchases on non-essential items.
  3. Re-use last year’s school supplies if possible.

Although this year’s plan might not be as fun as a shopping orgy, it certainly means that we’ll be able to stay well within our budget.

Next in series: Emergency Food Supplies

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