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Blog: Simplify Your Life
Frugal Living 101 -- Raising Children Part 2

Last week, I shared some tips for saving money while raising kids -- here are a few more suggestions:

  • question the supply lists (teachers these days often give parents ridiculously long lists of "required supplies" for class -- many of these ask families to provide basic essentials like kleenex and paper towels and hand sanitizer -- pretty soon, they'll be asking children to bring their own TP to school! -- some suggest that kids need items like dry erase boards and electric pencil sharpeners and glitter for art class, which really should be provided by the school -- and others simply go overboard with the quantities, requiring children to buy 5 dozen pencils or 8 packs of loose leaf paper or 6 different brands of markers for the start of the year -- these lists began as a way to help parents make smarter shopping decisions, but they've been blown all out of proportion in recent years -- talk to the teacher about items you find extraneous or unnecessary -- make it clear that you'll outfit your child with everything he or she needs, but you're not going to waste money buying out the store "just in case" -- start with the essentials, then ask to be notified when and if your child needs something special for class -- but do not be bullied into spending more than you can afford, -- there is no reason your kid can't learn and participate and create with just the basics)
  • inventory before you shop (some parents immediately run out and buy everything on the supply list as soon as they receive it, like some Pavlovian back-to-school response -- but how much of what's "required" do you already have around the house? -- gather everything together from your kid's room, all the various book bags and pencil boxes, your office, and the craft area -- your goal is to compare and consolidate -- if the supply requisition asks for a bottle of glue and you have three partial bottles, pour them all into one and cross that item off your list -- lay out all of your loose crayons, toss the broken stubs, and see if you can pull together an acceptable assortment of 24 -- empty binders that are holding outdated information and recycle them for the new year's schoolwork -- find 50 blank index cards among the miscellany of papers in your home, and you've got the equivalent of a full pack -- hell, locate enough odd sheets of loose notebook paper, and you may not need a shopping trip at all!)
  • learn to re-use (there's always a big pressure, usually sponsored by the stores selling supplies, for kids to have everything "new" at the start of each school year -- how ironic, when you consider that most of those products are simply marketing vehicles for the latest movies, television shows, and toy lines! Wink-- besides, kids' tastes are so quixotic and changeable, it's pretty much pointless to try and keep up -- I mean, if you get school supplies decorated with Dora The Explorer this year, what ever will you do when Dora's out of fashion? -- the trick to buying items kids will use over and over again is to avoid the fads -- better to choose a style that can make the transition from one year's pop culture to the next -- and with items that need to be reused from year to year, durability is a higher priority than price -- it's far more frugal to splurge on a higher-end brand that's built to last, than to have it fall apart after one season and need replacing -- this is especially true with book bags, backpacks, and lunch storage containers)
  • stock up (your children are going to need school supplies all year long, so why not buy for the entire year when you find a good sale? -- set aside a closet or cabinet for educational "paraphernalia" and plan to keep it filled from the first day of kindergarten through to graduation -- buying in bulk is almost always less expensive than shopping for smaller quantities -- and you save yourself having to run out to get more of something at regular price when Johnny runs out the night before a project is due -- but I'm not just talking about those "back-to-school" sales or tax free weekends -- many businesses raise their prices before discounting them so as not to lose money, or push you toward expensive brands which are going to cost more on sale than others might even at regular price -- off-season sales are better, like the deep discounts you find on Black Friday or during the January inventory reductions -- you might even luck up during some random sale your local office supply store offers because they're overstocked in one particular area -- always keep your eye out for bargains, and be prepared to load up when they come your way)
  • stop chasing the technology (in my day, back-to-school meant a new lunchbox and a Trapper Keeper, but now kids seem to feel they need new laptops, cell phones, iPads, and more in order to learn -- well, guess what -- not everything has to be "new" just because it's a new school year -- they're going to whine that their friends have one, they're going to promise to be good, they're going to insist that they can't function without the latest app/feature/upgrade -- but when it comes to expensive electronics, you need to make it clear up front that this purchase will have to last your child for several years, regardless of what new technology comes out -- you might also talk to your school about borrowing or renting laptops if purchasing would put too big a dent in your budget -- with classes becoming so dependent on the internet for basic learning, these sorts of programs are popping up all throughout school districts)
  • cheaper schoolbooks (throughout my public school education, I was always provided my books for free -- however, shrinking budgets combined with the popularity of homeschooling and private education have placed the burden for purchasing textbooks on parents -- and once your kids hit college, materials fees can rival what you're paying for tuition -- but it's silly to pay full-price for new textbooks, when you can find the same edition for less on the used market -- of course there's always Amazon, but search the web and you'll find dozens of companies that both buy and sell used textbooks -- and the earlier you start shopping, the better your chances at a full stock and a good price -- so ask your school for a book list that includes ISBN numbers as soon as possible, preferably before the end of the previous school year, so you have plenty of time to shop around)
  • save on school clothing (it might seem that you only have two choices at the start of a school year -- spend a lot of money on a new wardrobe for your child, or spend a lot of money on new uniforms -- but really, neither is necessary -- who says you have to fill your children's closets at the start of fall? -- it makes more sense to buy those staples you know they're going to need throughout the year, as you see them go on sale -- again, as with school supplies, you can often get a better deal on things like jeans, tees, socks, sweatshirts, outerwear, and underwear on Black Friday or during the January clearance sales -- and who says school has to be a fashion show in the first place? -- many school districts are now suggesting the exact opposite, imposing dress codes that severely limit a child's wardrobe options -- while this might irritate your teen, it's going to save you money in the long run -- simply inform your child that you aren't buying any clothes for them that do not meet school dress code guidelines, and if they want the latest hippest fashions to wear out on the weekends, they can purchase them with their own money -- you also don't have to completely replace your child's wardrobe just because the fads have shifted since last year -- provide your children with classic base pieces, then teach them how to accessorize -- the fine art of mixing and matching means fewer outfits to buy)
  • avoid the uniform blues (many districts have moved to uniforms to help parents save money and also cut down on classroom distractions caused by "fashion wars" -- however, buying new from the school store can get expensive after a while -- try to only buy the pieces that are specific to the school from the school, like a jacket or tie with the school insignia -- you can even ask to buy the insignia separately and attach it to an item you already have in your child's closet -- or check around your town and on the internet for uniform banks and other places that sell used -- those jackets and plaid skirts are so well-made that you can easily get several seasons out of them -- also remember that many uniforms involve nothing more than khaki/navy pants/skirts paired with white/blue button-up shirts -- you can shop for these at the same sales as those whose children wear jeans and tees to class -- and if you simply must have "new," either shop online for discount school uniforms or postpone your shopping until after school starts -- many times, once the rush is over, the price drops)
  • extracurricular items (when a child participates in any sort of "extracurricular," he or she may be given school-provided uniforms, but will still be required to purchase a few supplies -- every kind of sport has different shoes and pads, marching band means another pair of shoes and possibly gloves or suspenders, performance arts could require a variety of leotards or taps or ballet slippers -- those items will last a lot longer if you only allow your child to use them for that particular class or activity -- no wearing those $200 specialty track sneakers to go hiking! -- also search for buy-one-get-one sales, which let you outfit your child for all his many ventures at half the price)

read the original post of this blog

posted on: 9/6/2011 11:30:00 AM by Ramona Creel
category: General Organizing Tips

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Discuss This Post

by Kamberley on 10/25/2011 9:29:03 PM:

Hey, that post leaves me feleing foolish. Kudos to you!

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Simplify Your Life

by Ramona Creel

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About Ramona:

I have been a Professional Organizer for more than 10 years, I am a NAPO Golden Circle member, and I was the original founder of OnlineOrganizing. I have worked one-on-one with scores of clients and have trained dozens of newbie organizers as they got started in the industry. I provide both hands-on and virtual coaching to help clients improve their organizing skills and simplify their lives. I invite you to visit my website at http://www.RamonaCreel.com, and I challenge you to find one new idea that you can put into practice in your life, to help you become better organized, starting TODAY! I am passionate about coaching folks toward a more balanced, productive, and enjoyable life -- and I firmly believe that if I can do it, so can you!

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