Going Back To School Is A Double-Edged Sword

It’s learning season, and if the kids in your area haven’t started their trek back to school, they will soon. Going back to school means that parents who value their sanity can finally get that, “ahhhh” moment(s). They finally get a day(s) without hearing their name shouted from every corner of the earth. Those same parents are also having their “buddies” taken away from them for the greater part of the average day.

Going back to school is one of the few things in this world that can cause bliss, terror, stress, and emotional upheaval all at the same time. On one hand, their kids will never be that young again. From this moment on, they will get older and older. If those parents play their cards right, their kids will also get wiser and more mature as the years go on. On the other hand, parents spend three months trying to find a way to balance work, romantic relationships, being a parent, and being a full time children’s entertainer. That doesn’t sound like the most sedate and joyful atmosphere. The cry of most parents becomes much more clear by the beginning of August.

If you’re a parent who is having their child start school for the first time ever, I empathize with the emotional upheaval you are currently experiencing, or will soon experience. It’s a stressful time, even if you don’t take the emotional side of it in hand. It’s your first time having to buy school supplies, clothes that don’t have holes and grass stains covering every inch of them, and what about writing utensils? Does your kindergartner even need those? What about school lunches? How are those handled? Are you supposed to pack a lunch for your kids? The expense of these things alone can have parents going into panic mode, and that price tag only gets higher as the kids get older. If you have a child that’s returning to school you, again, have my empathy for all the reasons previously listed.

Now that I have greatly eased your mind with the simple act of stating that I feel for you, let’s find a tangible way to reduce your stress. For starters, going back to school doesn’t have to be so expensive. You can be thrifty about it. Parade gives 10 tips and ideas to not go bankrupt before your kids get enough education to fully support you. Some of them are as easy as looking around your house. Who doesn’t buy pencils by the box load? Do they even come in any other way? Chances are you have a calculator that can do some of the homework your kids are sent home with. I mean, sure, it won’t be able to call into the international space station, but it can add and subtract. I’m pretty sure division and multiplication would be options too. Some other options are rummage sales, online sale sites, things of that ilk. They also suggest buying things ahead of time when they are on sale, but if you’re reading this now, there’s a good chance you missed that opportunity.

If you were to look at the National Retail Federation’s spending break down for back to school, you’d do what you could to diminish that number. Even if it means waiting for some of the non-essential items to be bought after school starts. Ten cent notebooks? Yes please. If you really want to go deep with your savings, you can always check out The Street’s list of discount retail sites.

That covers the spending curve, but about about the mentality of going back to school for both parents and children. Does purchasing everything online really help in that regard? The Wall Street Journal spent some time talking with mom Jennifer Fishkind about back to school shopping. Fishkind prefers to do her school shopping in a store where she can put things in a real cart and purchase at a real register.

“If I ordered online and the items showed up in a box on my doorstep, it wouldn’t help them,” she says. To a degree, her point can be seen. If the kids don’t have a hand (a physical hand) in choosing the back to school items and clothes, it may not feel real enough to them. They could, quite possibly, wake up on the first day of school thinking they’re still in the throes of summer. If you are one of those parents that has a need to plan things out and be prepared, think of forgoing the online experience, and try stepping foot into an actual store. Offer ice cream as an incentive; it works for me on a regular basis.

All in all, just remember that it’s only school. No pressure.

[Image credit to Tim Boyle/Getty Images]