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Back To School Shopping

I just read that an average of $404 is spent on school supplies and clothing for back to school.  This must not include registration fees, sports and music fees, field trip fees, or busing and lunch room fees, as I’m sure I spent way more than that for each of my sons and they have been out of school for almost fifteen years!

When I was in school the teacher handed out a pencil and scribbler to each student and that was the extent of my supplies.  In high school they added a pile of textbooks with stern warnings about not damaging them and I bought a 3-inch binder and a package of loose-leaf paper.  A few new clothes were an additional expense and I remember wearing a scratchy new wool turtleneck on the first day of school, which coincided with the heat wave of Indian summer!

Even kindergarteners have a list of required supplies issued by the school as long as my arm.  As an additional insult, specific brands and sizes are named so parents can’t even buy bargains at Wal-Mart or Superstore.  Apparently this is so the wee ones don’t feel anxious or jealous if someone has something different.  Add to the list the “proper” electronic gear, new shoes, clothes and backpacks each year and it’s no wonder many parents go into debt to outfit their children.

Spending for college and university students is even more insane.

Buying the required books every semester above and beyond the tuition costs is a feat in itself.  The there’s the additional expense of decorating and furnishing their dorm rooms or apartments on top of the latest electronics if the students are away from home.  How much do you want to bet that they are the same kids who are lined up at the Student Financial Aid office to pick up their student loans?

Loan and grant monies are paid through our tax dollars so it’s as though my taxes are buying them luxuries that I can’t even afford.  They need to be more concerned about their education and less about the cool games stand or funky lamp for their dorm room.

University students are borrowing at a rate that is frightening.  As well as government loans, the major banks offer their own student lines of credit and credit cards.  How do they expect to be paid when most students can’t even budget their money?  Debt management is desperately needed.

Students must take the lead to prepare for university through hard work and determination by working during the summer and applying for scholarships in order to be debt free.  Live at home and attend college nearby.  Parents can provide some support if required and the budget permits.

Back to school shopping is a huge expense that can be reduced through judicious planning and budgeting.  Not everything needs to be brand new or even bought all at once.  Question the schools (especially elementary school) about the need for certain supplies.

We don’t have to go back to the pencil and scribbler days but there has to be a line drawn at some point.

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6 Comments

  1. My University Money on August 25, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    The funniest part is that as a teacher I still purchase a thousand pencils and extra loose leaf before the school year because I know that inevitably by the second way I will have at least a fifth of my students who have lost whatever their parents bought them. If you think I buy out of the goodness of my heart, then I probably shouldn’t go on to say that it is more about self-preservation – ever see 13-15 year-olds in class with nothing to do?

  2. Boomer on August 25, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    @My University Money
    I admire anyone who can keep teens occupied for several hours a day.

    • My University Money on August 25, 2011 at 8:39 pm

      It’s a work in progress. Sometimes I feel like a stand up comedian that is trying to compete for 8 second attention spans with their phone. Tough gig, especially when you’re supposed to sneak in actual curriculum stuff 😉

  3. Stocksicity on August 26, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    I’ve already bought a laptop costing almost $400 as part of my back to school (grad school) Shopping. Bought some notebooks but that was only another $10.

    I’ll be broke after I buy the text books required for class.

    And you’re completely right that most of the students at the Financial Aid office line are there for their loans. I was one of the few lucky ones actually there for my grants and scholarships but almost every other person there will bring in their loan papers to clear everything up. That’s the case with most of my friends as well. I know someone who is a $120,000 in debt because of student loans. Joy.

  4. Rick on August 28, 2011 at 9:05 am

    Nice post. It is truly astounding how expensive it has gotten. Like you, I can clearly remember how school expenses used to run to about a fraction of what it does today. And I agree, it’s insane just how high the student loans seem to run up to.

  5. Jean on August 31, 2011 at 12:46 am

    404… how ironic! Luckily for me I’ve always been conservative in my approach to school. I graduated from college in may of this year. Always shopped very lightly for high school, and college. Probably the first year at college was the most expensive in terms of back to school shopping, as that was the learning year, but after that things got less expensive on the ‘back to school shopping’ list, I guess the only thing that kept increasing was the tuition!

    -Jean

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