Back to School Consumerism

It’s back to school time. Part of me is thrilled and part of me is dreading it.

What I’m not loving is this whole concept of back-to-school shopping. The environmentalist in me (and, lets be honest, the miser too) is appalled at the level of consumerism that surrounds school. I guess I’ve always known it was there but have never really had to deal with it. Now, with The Girl living with us, it’s back to school we go.

The thing is, last year she tossed the stuff out of her binders as soon as school was out, leaving empty binders, yet still there is a request for new ones. Even if I were inclined to buy new ones, I’d be buying the ones made of recycled cardboard, she wants the $20 (each!) plastic zippered binders. From my perspective it seems there is nothing she really needs for the return to school, but I also understand it’s fun to go back with new things and that the cut-throat high school competition of who has the better ‘stuff’ extends to school supplies. I’m not sure where the middle ground is.

I already bought her a few of the essentials but I’m sure there is more that she wants. Just the other day she tried to convince me that owning five pairs of jeans was not enough! The challenge, for me, is meeting her physical and social needs but at the same time giving her some understanding of the economic and social impact of those purchases.

I think, this year, I’m going to let her make her own decision. Together, we will inventory what she has and what she needs. I will then give her enough money to buy what The Husband and I determine are the essentials and then a little extra. It will then be her responsibility to make the purchases. If she really wants the $20 binder then there won’t be much else. Maybe she’ll buy on sale and get a new pair of shoes out of it. She’ll have to come home with the necessities but how she chooses to allocate the remaining money is her business.

What do you think? Am I asking for trouble or is this going to help teach a good lesson?

Post script: I have to be totally honest, part of the decision to blog on this topic today was prompted by a blogger contest. In my attempts to expand my blog network I came across They are promoting the idea of using school shopping to teach financial responsibility – an idea I wholeheartedly support ( They’re also offering a prize to bloggers who choose to write about the issue. I’m not usually one for contests but since this is an issue I’ve been planning to broach soon, I decided to do it now. I choose to see it as happy coincidence rather than a shameless attempt at using my blog to win me a Kindle.

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3 Responses to Back to School Consumerism

  1. work at home says:

    Megan,I believe that yes, you are "asking for trouble" in giving your little girl her own money. However, children need to make mistakes in order to learn from them. As long as she has the basics and can function in class with the supplies she has, then I believe allowing her to utilize a little extra is a great idea. Obviously a child won't know how to find sales in the area and such, but it sounds like it could be a great project the two of you could take on together. Learning about sales, coupons, and differences of pricing in convenience stores versus traditional stores is giving your child a great start in budgeting for life.

  2. Atlantic Writer says:

    Thanks for your input. At 15, The Girl already likes to buy on sale (when spending her own money). I'm curious where this experience takes her.

  3. Divawrites says:

    I think it's a great idea. She will find out about compromise and trade-offs. As long as she comes home with the essentials, giving her the responsibility to make her own decisions is a good one. IF she has to make do with 2 pens because she bought the $20 binder, maybe next time around the $20 binder won't be as attractive…

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