Saturday, July 24, 2010

Dressed for success for $1.45: My new version of back-to-school guilt

Going Green Mama is dreading that day when her baby's not a baby...

School starts in two weeks, which means we're surrounded by meaningful messages of collecting new school supplies and backpacks for children in need and not-as-meaningful messages of "stock up now" on fabulous new clothes for fall.

And this year, I'm stuck in the middle of it all.

Sooner than I care to admit, my daughter will be taking her first steps to kindergarten. And while we wrestled with the idea - and ultimately settled on - sending her to private school, the reality of school life is just settling in.

Like just how many school supplies and uniforms a girl needs to get through.

Now, I'll be honest in that we're extremely frugal and survivalist green at this point in our lives. So since we made the decision on where to send her to school, I've been consciously scouring resale shops for anything that could meet the Catholic school test.

And I beat expectations. This spring, I landed a stack of shirts, shorts and pants at a fundraising sale for 50 cents each. Aside of a little wear in the knees, they're likely last us through at least this size, given how fast my little weed is growing.

The lunch box? Scored at the used kids store, happily, for a buck. For one dollar, we get a Hannah Montanna lunch box that even if we use just a few times, I won't be upset.

The backpack? A nearly new Tinkerbell backpack, found at another resale shop last weekend. Sure, it can technically hold an Mp3 player, but I've got her convinced one pocket is for her hairbrush and another for her crayons.

In fact, the only "new" items we have for school so far are socks and the classroom supplies, and it's tough to fake a secondhand box of Kleenex.

So yes, shoes aside, I did the math the other day. $1.45 a day for back-to-school duds.

The green and broke side of me applauds it. But the mommy in me wonders, shouldn't my child deserve "better" for school? A new outfit? Something? In a world where we tout new, new, new for fall, is there something just off when the only new thing is on her feet - and that's just because she grew?

So today, my question is this: How are you handling the back-to-school crush? Are you stocking up at the sales, biding your time, analyzing what's in your closet first? Or are you happily saving green at resale stores and garage sales, your children none the wiser?

13 comments:

The Mom said...

I'll preface by saying that we homeschool. That aside, the desire for new is what got us into this mess. Does your daughter care? I'm betting she doesn't and that she thinks all those wonderful things are new. They're new to her and wonderful to her. She deserves a world that is safe for her.

Debs said...

Hi
I totally love this post! (Sorry, just found you via twitter)

I love frugal living for many reasons. I love to have certain points through the year marked off on my calendar so I can work on them a bit at a time. Eg. Going back to school...I can buy school trousers for my son as much as a year before they'll fit him, because when I see them they are on special at 1/2 price or less or buy one get one free kinda thing, so i'll get a current size and another that is 2 sizes bigger. Throughout the year he amasses about 4/5 extra school items so to date i am about 3 years ahead of myself!

I do the same for christmas/birthdays, i know whos birthday is when and i'll begin a 'gift box' of goodies for them throughout the year, filling up with stuff that i got on special but stuff they will like also.

Kinda works for me..at least right now! :)

Debs
The British Homemaker

Tab said...

My boys are older, so I've had a little over a dozen years of this. When they first started school, they didn't care if things were new or not. One year my eldest was talking to me and told me he loves that we can reuse things and we buy things thrifty, but he would like to just once in a while get something with a character, or something that he picks out new. So we made a deal. They each get $5 at the start of school supply shopping. They can find one thing the like (fancy binder, cutesy erasers, a tshirt on sale, art supplies they want but don't need, etc.) whatever they want for school. If they don't spend the money it's theirs to keep.
I always worry that if I go too far with them on thrift (or food, etc..) that they will rebel when they get older. I hope that I am able to give them a balance so they don't see it as a burden, but a wise choice. So far, it's worked for us.

Heather said...

Kids grow so fast, it seems silly to buy new stuff! And it's still "new to you" so they still get the feeling of having something new, whether it's previously loved or not! I'm all for buying things second hand.

Daisy said...

I see this from two sides: I teach, and in a low income school to boot. Many of my students can't afford extras. We put them in touch with agencies that provide them with new backpacks and notebooks and other supplies.
At the end of each year I collect used-but-usable crayons, pencils, pens, and paper. Kids even tear the still-usable paper out of notebooks. All of those supplies are available for the following year, and my kiddos learn the philosophy of paying it forward.
To make a long story short, new and trendy is overrated. Really.

Jenn the Greenmom said...

Our Catholic school has a big uniform resale thing every year, where what's outgrown gets donated to the school, other moms buy it for cheap for their kids, and the school makes a little money to keep tuition down. Another place where the perfect isn't the enemy of the good--those parents who DO insist on giving their kids "new" every year at least get to pass that "not as new" down to other students in future years.

You might also arrange to Make Friends with a family or parent in that school with an older kid who'd be willing to pass those uniforms on to you in later years...

Ugh. I feel your pain.

Elle Bee said...

I love all your 2ndhand finds! I think it's great! Why buy into the consumerism of this world? I love that you're teaching your children that used is better for everybody, environmentwise & moneywise.

Katie said...

I have 7, soon to be 8, kids in Catholic school. I buy three laundry baskets filled with used school uniforms every other year at the school sale. My husband and I refer to it as "Large family Christmas." Because my kids are fairly tough on clothes, and they will lose at least 10 sweatshirts throughout the course of the year, I refuse to spend hundreds of dollars on new stuff that becomes used stuff the first time I wash it. My oldest is in third grade and none of my kids have ever lodged a complaint about it. In fact, they still think it is sort of cool to wear the older, awesome kids old stuff.

Anonymous said...

The kids don't care about new stuff, it's a particular kind of parent that does (and who pass that attitude onto their kids, unfortunately).

Stick with your principles! :)

knutty knitter said...

I assume some people must buy new uniforms but I can't say I know any. Yes the odd item has to be got but everything else is secondhand through the school. I suspect some items are third and fourth hand but it doesn't really matter.

Most of ours are at least 3rd hand but then they are built to last. I have had to buy new shoes and a pair of gloves and that is it. I don't think my eldest has even noticed - clothes are not something he ever considers. (he's nearly 14).

viv in nz

Melissa @ HerGreenLife said...

As a kid, I was always excited for the first day of school, with all my new "stuff" and my new first-day-of-school outfit. Now that seems kind of silly, but it was a fun tradition. It sounds like you've done a wonderful job outfitting your daughter. I'm not sure where the balance is here. What about starting some other kind of back-to-school tradition, something you can do every year to make it special?

Elizabeth B said...

Reading the comments here makes me really happy. It's so wonderful to see people teaching their children the value of thrift and reuse. My hat's off to all of you!

Robbie said...

Thanks for the positive feedback! And yes, my daughter isn't any the wiser - in fact, she thinks it's cool to go to the "used kids store."

Feeling significantly less guilty, especially since a mom gave me her daughter's nearly new jumper for nothing. Just because it's new doesn't mean it will be worn!

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