Skip to main content

Today's Family Magazine

MOMMY CHRONICLES: Back to school means shopping

By Stacy Turner

For most parents, the back-to-school season means back to the stores, and many start the season early.  Last year, according to the National Retail Federation, 68% of shoppers planned to begin their back-to-school purchasing three weeks prior to the start of school.  I understand the need to start shopping early.  As a kid, the first day of school always set the butterflies churning in my stomach.  Starting at five new schools throughout the course of childhood, I became an expert at starting over, though it was a skill I would have preferred not to learn.  I still get nervous for my kids, as they return to school each year, but I do my best not to let them see it.  Instead of waiting until the last minute, as sometimes happened as a kid, we shop early, so we’re not rushing around at the last minute, adding unnecessary stress.

This practice brings a sense of calm not only to me, but to my organized first-born, who wants to make sure she finds precisely what she needs well ahead of time.  We also take time to find just the right lunchbox, water bottle, or pencil case so my free-spirited youngest child is excited about going to school to use them.  The same principle applies to clothes and shoes, with online shopping an awesome option for my shopping-averse kids. Getting ready for school also means finding a balance between late nights enjoying the glorious summer season while simultaneously preparing for the early mornings that will soon be a shock to our systems. 

Speaking of shocking, last year, shoppers planned to spend an average of nearly $790 on school supplies, clothing and accessories to help prepare their kids for school.  While you commiserate about the high costs of everything from pencils to Post-its, try to remember that some day in the not too distant future, you’ll no longer need to be concerned with the difference between college-ruled or wide-ruled notebooks or finding every hard-to-find item on the supply list before the first day of class.  As you head out to go school shopping, maybe irritated by the length of the list and the mounting cost at the register, remember that some day soon you won’t have this opportunity.

With our little ones, summer didn’t offer much time to think, with a full schedule of softball games, summer camp and camping trips.  And while these special activities kept us running, they also gave us a much-needed break from school.  But as the kids get older, it seems like summer has gotten shorter, with part time jobs and social activities added to the mix.  And with fall sport practices beginning in July, we’re making regular trips to school throughout the summer months, making it feel as though they never really left school.  On the bright side, first-day nerves are greatly reduced, since they’ve gotten used to being back to school all summer long.

And as my kids have grown, the supply lists have moved away from vibrant watercolor paints, markers and crayons to binders, mechanical pencils, and scientific calculators.  So as school supplies go on sale, I find myself gravitating toward the fun notebooks, markers, and brightly colored pencil cases.  I miss the smell of new crayons and the sound of the pencil sharpener as my little ones packed their character-themed backpacks, nervously excited for that first day of school.  Now, they prep for school in less colorful ways, and they aren’t so little anymore, either.  And it won’t be long until we’re packing them up for college.

I’m not the only one feeling nostalgic; my oldest reminisced on how she looked forward to the open house because she knew that first day back at school only lasted an hour.  I guess it really is all in your perspective. 

So however you and your family choose to approach the back-to-school season -- whether by the seat of your pants, or with weeks of planning, know that the new school year will begin, full of promise and hope.  And hopefully, if you’re lucky, it will include some fun and colorful supplies.