Back to School: Needs versus Wants

Back to School: Needs versus Wants

When I was in grade school my mom would always make sure we had a new outfit for the first day of school. This tradition was no small investment given that I am the youngest of five kids. But every year we’d go shopping and then, decked out in our school starting clothes, we would have our picture taken on the front porch before heading off school.

“Back to school” shopping in those days was pretty low key. Today, however, it is a hurricane of advertising, sale flyers and big in-store displays. It can be very difficult not to get caught up in the frenzy, so I thought I’d offer up a few tips.

1. Determine your needs before you go: It is very difficult to shop based on ‘needs’ once you arrive at the store. There is so much for you and your kids to ‘want’ and that is where you can get in over your head. If you take the time to write out the list before you go to the store, and stick to it, you are much less likely to overbuy. Does your kid need a new knapsack or just want one?

2. Consider leaving the kids at home: If shopping only for needs is too hard to do with excitable kids in tow, consider leaving them at home. Talk to them about the list before you go so they are clear on expectations, but consider that it might be easier to stay true to your list without listening to the chorus of “can I please have…..?”

3. Buy a small treat: “Back to school” is a new beginning and definitely something to celebrate. In my family it became a ritual that we looked forward to. To mark the day, think about choosing a small treat – a pencil case, a book, or a lunch item – but something that doesn’t send you reeling when the credit card bill arrives in three weeks.
That’s it for now. Off to meet the new teacher!