Will the economy affect your back-to-school spending?

Posted on Facebook by a Gwinnett County mom:

Teacher friends, you may not want to read this…

WTH is the deal with the school supply lists this year??? I KNOW I complain every year, but 6 DOZ sharpened pencils? 15 pocket folders? And once we buy all the ‘requested’ supplies, we still, STILL have to make a ’suggested’ 10.00 school supply donation per child??? I am friggin’ bleeding money this week!!!
Sorry…couldn’t keep it in anymore.

This mom’s post prompted quite a discussion with parents and teachers weighing in.  Other moms were equally irritated by the long lists and the sharpened pencils (why do they need to be sharpened?) but then also bristled at the suggestion of not sending stuff in at all. One teacher commented that she would rather have $5 per kid so she could get exactly what she wanted the kids to have instead of what was on the grade-level list.

Walsh will be going to a different elementary school than Rose this year and while it’s only about a mile away and in the same school district, their supply list is much shorter. What’s up with that? I don’t think the demographics of the school are that different. Maybe they are just allocating their funds differently?

A new survey conducted by independent research firm Toluna and released by Buy.com looked at how families planned to spend for back-to-school items. It surveyed more than 350 parents and found that:

“…The majority of parents (82 percent) will be spending the same or less than last year on back-to-school shopping, leaving only 18 percent spending more than previous years.

40 percent of moms are planning to spend the minimum for back-to-school season, citing a tough economy as the reason to buy less.

22 percent of dads plan to spend more this year, with an average planned spend of $210 for dads vs. $171 for moms.

More than half (52 percent) of moms are most excited about picking out clothing and shoes, as opposed to the basic school supplies (25 percent), backpacks/lunchboxes (11 percent), art equipment (10 percent) or electronics (three percent).

A third (28 percent) of parents referred to back-to-school shopping as a ‘necessary evil,’ and 10 percent said ‘I’d rather be doing anything else.’ ”

So will the economy affect how much you spend on back-to-school supplies? Will you be spending more or less than you did last year or the year before?

What is your school asking for? (Six dozen pencils does seem like a lot!) What would be reasonable to you?

Where do you find the best deals for supplies? What the best time to shop – one week before, two weeks, three? I haven’t bought anything yet so I’m planning to head out this weekend and get the job done. I may be too late for the best deals.

(RELATED BLOG: Do you have to buy new clothes for new school year?)

On a related topic, I wanted to share an opportunity to give to less fortunate schools in Atlanta by just using certain coupons while you shop.

Procter & Gamble and Communities in Schools of Atlanta have launched a GIVE Education campaign to develop awareness of student dropout crisis in Atlanta and the U.S. Every nine seconds of each school day, a young person drops out of high school in the U.S., and nearly one-third of high school students fail to graduate on time.  In Georgia approximately 22,000 young people drop out of high school each year.

Every time you use coupons from the P&G brandSaver coupon booklet in this Sunday’s AJC, two cents will be donated to the Communities in Schools helping provide human, financial and community resources. The donation is uncapped so the more coupons you use the more money the schools will get.

Communities in Schools of Atlanta served 74 schools in Atlanta and DeKalb County with enrollments of 46,000 students and their families during the 2010-2011 school year.

For more info go to www.facebook.com/pgmygive.

Seems like a pretty pain-free opportunity to give to other schools that may have less than our own.

– Theresa Walsh Giarrusso, ajc.com Momania

40 comments Add your comment

motherjanegoose

July 29th, 2011
7:55 am

TWG…we kind of covered the school supply thing with Andy but maybe posters have something new to share. I did see an article on shopping for school supplies in the AJC and it showed Target as the best place with the best prices and availability of all items. I think Walgreens was good with pricing but harder to shop and Wal Mart was out of some things here.

Why do your kids go to two different schools? To me, what teachers ask for is kind of like what you and I might “need” to run a household. Each person/school is different. Although each grade level typically has the same list here.

JJ

July 29th, 2011
8:32 am

SOOOOOOOOOOO thankful I don’t have to play these games anymore!!!!!!!! This fall is the first time in 16 years my child isn’t going to school.

motherjanegoose

July 29th, 2011
8:45 am

@ JJ…what did she decide to do? Did she find a job that she likes?

JJ

July 29th, 2011
8:54 am

@MJG- don’t get me started!!! She hasn’t found a job, not that she’s really tried. Driving me crazy…she has until the end of next week, before she loses her phone service. I’ve taken away her car, and have NOT given her a dime since May. I’m getting very tired of this.

Miss Priss!

July 29th, 2011
9:12 am

JJ … honey … I get the feeling your daughter feels the same way about you!

JJ

July 29th, 2011
9:21 am

Thanks Miss Priss. Appreciate those kind words.

Denise

July 29th, 2011
9:25 am

I don’t know how the distribution works out, but my job and my church are collecting school supplies. My job is collecting school supplies for a particular school that we have a partnership with so I guess they just collect them at the school and distribute them as needed. The list is similar to what you parents and teachers have talked about but I do not see the specificity…unless they are specifying Kleenex and Ziploc brands rather than using it generically like we tend to do casually.

Jeff

July 29th, 2011
9:35 am

I’m fortunate enough to not have to deal with this. It’s part ofmthe child support I pay every month. When I have ever questioned how it was spent, I’ve been told it’s a blanket payment to cover expenses that are prioritized by the mother. Well, ok. See you next Friday @ 6:00.

Jeff

July 29th, 2011
9:37 am

Which in many cases makes my life easier if I choose to see it that way. That way, when I am with my daughter, I can focus solely on having fun together, making our connection as close as possible, and not worry about any of the heavy issues.

RJ

July 29th, 2011
9:59 am

Some teachers use the supplies for all students in the class. I would imagine that’s why 6 dozen pencils were requested. It makes up for the kids that don’t bring in supplies. I buy what I feel is necessary. I used to go down the list and buy everything, but I learned that all those supplies are not necessary. Now I get what I think they need.

motherjanegoose

July 29th, 2011
10:01 am

Jeff…hope you are going somewhere fun! Are you taking your daughter? Our mailman told me last Saturday, ” I won’t be here this week as I am going to Orlando on a father/son trip.” I thought that was awesome. My husband took our son to Vegas when he turned 21. Upon return, our son told me he should have walked away sooner. Lessons learned :0

JJ

July 29th, 2011
10:18 am

Theresa – welcome back. I hope you had a nice relaxing vacation!!!!

Becky

July 29th, 2011
10:29 am

@Jeff..My nephews wife gets child support from her ex and she makes it plain to my nephew that that money is only to be spent on her child..Don’t ask her to buy groceries with it, or pay a utility with it, she goes wacko..She says that it’s only for clothes and fun things for the daughter..REALLY? What about a place to live, food and other needed things..Hope you have fun with your daughter..

@JJ..Sorry about the daughter driving you crazy..I can only imagine your frustration (sp)..Like you, I’ve have a job since I was about 13 and could not imagine not working..So, good luck with that..

@RJ..I made the mistake one time on buying everything that was on the list..Name brand and all..Cost me a small chunk of change..I won’t do that again..I do try to buy what is on the list, but I don’t send it all in at once..Thank goodness my two are old enough this year to know to keep their things in their backpack and not be giving out to all the other kids..

I have said this before, I don’t mind helping out kids that really need help, but if your parents can afford a $60-70,000 car and $100.00 tennis shoes, they can afford school supplies..You get free lunches already out of my tax dollars, so don’t expect me to pay for you childs pencils and paper..

theresa

July 29th, 2011
10:54 am

Ill have to go back and read of all andys stuf. We didn’t have internet for much of the trip. I saw that friends rant and just thought perfect. Also had the spending survey and the coupon that as new. There is a third topic up by 1 that is off a news story. So check back.

Lori

July 29th, 2011
11:03 am

I don’t have a real struggle with this. My son is in private school, so I can obviously afford to buy supplies. They do sometimes seem a bit crazy (4 boxes of crayons, etc) but last year the teacher sent home the left over supplies with the kids so I ended up with crayons, glue sticks and a ruler for this year that I didn’t have to buy. And I’d rather have to supply hand sanitizer & wet wipes for the class, then have my child come home with the flu or strep throat because he couldn’t sanitize his hands before lunch!

Now, my sister is at the other end. She is a teacher in a low income school. She very rarely has parents who send in supplies at all, so she ends up having to buy paper and pencils for the class. It’s sad, because these “low income” parents whose kids are getting free lunch, have expensive manicures and Gucci handbags, but they can’t see fit to buy their kid a pencil. It’s back to the “entitlement mindset”. They figure that public education ought to provide all the materials. Either that, or they just don’t care.

DB

July 29th, 2011
11:11 am

@Jeff: I mean this respectfully, but when I read your post about how you only wanted to concentrate on “fun” with your daughter and not worry about the “heavy” things — the first thing that ran through my mind was “oh, boy — good cop/bad cop, I bet her mother just loves being the ‘heavy’ all the time.” I hope you didn’t mean it that way, but that’s the way it came across.

This year, my “back to school” shopping is helping my daughter gather items for her new apartment — living off campus in an apartment for the first time, we’re buying a bed, and a few inexpensive furniture pieces, plus what she has been savvy-shopping for on Craigslist and Freecycle. Suddenly, that $100 calculator is looking pretty darn good . . . *sigh*

theresa

July 29th, 2011
11:13 am

I am cleaning out all the bins from last years work and I do think I can recycle some binders andfolders especially for walsh.

@jj I understand your frustration. What do u do with a grown child? Tough to find thingsto discipline with and if the car and phone don’t do it I’m not sure what will. I think she needs to figure out wat really interests her in life and then start working toward that and it may not be something that requires college. If she could do or be anything in the world what would it be and then maybe find something low on that chain that is at least a start.

theresa

July 29th, 2011
11:14 am

Jeff I have a bunch of divorce ones I want to do. Girlfriend/boyfriends in disciplining children and then alo combining households. Will do some of these soon. Send me any divorce stuff u want us to do.

DB

July 29th, 2011
11:15 am

@Lori: Just musing, here: I wonder what would happen if the kids received zeros for not completing work because they didn’t bring the items necessary to complete the assignment? There are no consequences for the parents not to send in supplies — I wonder what would happen if parents who didn’t provide necessary supplies were reported to DFACs :-) That’s a huge overreaction, I know — but it seems to be a problem that increases every year. There are lots of generous people who pick up the slack because of the kids — but it irks me that parents can skip out on their responsibilities so easily.

motherjanegoose

July 29th, 2011
11:16 am

@ Lori…some of us on this blog can shout a loud AMEN to your second paragraph…while others seem not to realize it.

Whenever it comes to $$, to me, it is always about priorities. Not everyone has the same ones.
Just take a look at our budget issues. Most folks do not want to cut their own benefits and some folks have not paid a dime into those benefits, their entire lives!

i found it humorous that my daughter has had the same Jansport bookbag for 5 years ( I mentioned it on today’s other topic) . I really did not know but she never asked for a new one. Guess I should have paid more attention.

Lori

July 29th, 2011
11:36 am

DB, don’t think it’s realistic to punish the kids with zeros because the parents are losers. She works at an elementary school, so we are talking about small children who have no control over their situation. My sister could not even think about punishing these kids. She’s even paid for field trips for some of the kids because she couldn’t stand having one or two get left out. But I agree that it’s really sad for parents not to provide their kids with supplies. But perhaps these parents don’t see the value in their kids education, as they didn’t see the value in theirs. Then they wonder why the poverty cycle will never end, because they don’t attempt to provide their children with the tools necessary to escape that cycle.

MomOf2Girls

July 29th, 2011
12:14 pm

@Lori – Sorry, but you hit a nerve in your 11:03 post. Why is it so obvious you can afford supplies because your son is in private school? There are a lot of families at our school that really scrimp and save, drive old cars, don’t take vacations, etc, so they can send their kids to private school. Just because you don’t have to sacrifice doesn’t mean everyone doesn’t. A lot of people make do without a lot of things just so their child can get a quality education at a private school, and believe me, they feel the pain of paying for school supplies.

JJ

July 29th, 2011
12:18 pm

Thank you Momof2girls. I thought that post was very condensending myself.

Teacher, Too

July 29th, 2011
1:09 pm

I teach middle school, and when I give the supply list, it’s very basic. Plain-ruled notebook paper, a composition book, dark blue or black pens, and depending on the grade, post-it notes and index cards. I ask students to bring in either a box of tissue or hand sanitizer. The hand sanitizer or tissue is all I collect. Students are expected to keep up with their own supplies.

I repeatedly tell my students that I am not Wal-Mart; they are expected to come to class prepared. I also tell my students that their classmates are not Wal-Mart, and that they should not expect their peers to supply them with paper and/or pens.

Last year, after spring vacation, I sent an e-mail to my students’ parents, especially the ones who did not have materials on a regular basis, that school was not over, and students were expected to come to class with their supplies. I asked them to check with their children to see what was needed to get through the remainder of the school year. Did it help? Of course not- the ones who continually “borrowed” from their friends continued borrowing.

I don’t believe in the collective supply lists. It’s not up to the rest of the parents to cover for those who can’t provide even the most basic things, such as pencils or paper. Really, there are many resources for low income parents to help cover the cost of supplies– even free supplies.

As for what happens when we run out of tissue, I get a roll of TP from the custodian. I tell students that they can bring their own tissue (little packets they can keep in their pencil bag) or suffer.

DB

July 29th, 2011
1:36 pm

I think that Lori meant that if she said that her kids were in a private school, she’d get blasted if she joined the consternation over school supplies, because then it would be, “well, your kid is in private school, what are you bitchin’ about?” It’s generally assumed that if you choose to send your child to a private school, then supplies shouldn’t be a problem, so it’s a no-win situation. There aren’t too many kids in private schools that show up without their supplies, as opposed to public schools. Yes, some parents struggle with it more than others, but private school parents, with few exceptions, are generally going to make sure their kids have the tools they need in a far greater percentage than perhaps Lori’s sister’s school. Momof2Girls, you’re unusual to recognize that there are a segment of parents who do struggle to finance a private education for the children — most people think we’re just elitist snobs.

I ran into the same attitude here on the blog a couple of years ago when I was bemoaning the cost of textbooks — at our school, we had to buy the text books each year, just like college students. I was basically told to shut up because we chose a private school over a public school, with no consideration for the fact that, for us, it was a struggle some years because we are self-employed, and if you have a bad year or a client who flakes on you, you’re toast, but you still have to maintain a level of security and consistency for your children – you can’t duck in and out of a private school on a whim, it’s a commitment. Still, when your school supply list hits $800 for two kids, including books and not including uniforms . . . it’s a bite.

Jeff

July 29th, 2011
1:52 pm

DB, I understand your statement and don’t take offense to it at all. Here is what I have learned in the last 5 years;

When I have made requests to have more influence on the “heavy” issues, I’ve been rebuffed at every turn. Either by ignoring my request or telling me she disagrees and since she’s the “primary care giver”, then she controls everything and I control nothing. That’s a literal quote from her.

So, the result is that I’m washing my hands of the heavy stuff and she gets to take the brunt of being the bad cop.

Jeff

July 29th, 2011
1:57 pm

MJG – taking your child to Vegas upon maturity is never a good idea. I’m taking munchkin to Litchfield Beach, SC in mid Aug.

Becky – I’ve looked in to sending gift cards for the monthly total for various expenses (groceries, Target, gas card, etc) and was told by multiple people (some of whom are in the legal arena) that what could end up happening is she reports me to Child Support and they in turn will view that as a gift and not child support. Thus, I would be in arrears according to the state.

TWG – Thanks. I’ll try to do when I haven’t just had a fight with the ex. I TRY to keep in mind that if we got along, we’d still be together, so it’s no shock that we have significant differences. Sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t.

Love ya’ll, you’re awesome. Have a great weekend.

Patrick

July 29th, 2011
2:38 pm

Teachr Too – I totally agree with you. I remember when I was in school, our supply lists consisted of basically what you described, but minus the hand sanitizer (wasn’t around at the time, and no one thought it was really ever needed). I can’t even begin to comprehend why schools believe that parents should provide not only for their own child, but the other 39 children in their child’s classroom. I understand some people may not be able to afford school supplies, but if you’d get rid of that expensive SUV and quit buying expensive clothing, maybe you could.

Just another example of bringing this country one step closer to Socialist Communism. Teach the children that not one may have more than the others.

I will shamefully admit I had to borrow supplies over the years. Usually it’s been pencils or pens and paper, but most of that was my fault. I was bad at not telling my parents when I’d run out, or was close to running out, so they could restock me. When I started working part-time after school and on weekends, I began buying my own supplies, and kept a pretty decent stock in my locker or on my desk at home. It worked out better because that way, I would remember to grab what I needed to restock me, not to mention having backup for doing homework.

JJ

July 29th, 2011
2:49 pm

Jeff – the best advise I can give you, is to just be THE BEST father to your daughter that you can be. And so far you are doing that. Also, your time. She will always remember the time spent with you, but she won’t remember what you bought. The memories are the best thing you can give her. You picked up and moved to be closer to her when the ex moved. That is very honorable my friend.

And never, ever, ever degrade your ex in front of the child. Never talk about about her mother, in front of her, in a negative way. It will come back to bite you on the behind.

And I for one, am very proud of all you do for your child. I admire men who take responsibility for their children!!!! I know you are in a difficult position, but you are her father, and she needs to be able to look up to you and know that she can always come to you.

Who knows what the future brings? But just be there for her, and let her know you will always be there for her!!!!

Becky

July 29th, 2011
2:50 pm

@Jeff..Hopefully one day it will all work out for you and your daughter..My ex’s ex had it in her divorce papers that she wanted NO child support..Well, he didn’t pay it for about a year after the divorce..Then one day the “light” lit up and he said it didn’t matter that the child was still his and that he was not going to make her suffer because her Mom was an idiot..

He (we) paid support the next 6 years without fail..Then when the daughter started driving, he bought her a brand new car..We paid for all extras that the child wanted..During all of this time, the daughter only visited twice..Then we found out that the Mom and Grandmom had been telling the daughter all this time that her Dad was a dead beat that never sent her any money or did anything for her..Well, it backfired on the Mom when the daughter (after gradutaion) found out that it was her that had been lying all those years..So again, hopefully things will get better for you in this situation..:~)

JJ

July 29th, 2011
3:10 pm

My daughter re-connected with her father Christmas 2009, after about a 13 year absence. Since then, she has seen him MAYBE 3 times. He never makes contact with her, it’s always her. She has asked him for money several times, and he has only given her money once, and it was only $50. Yet he drives a brand new mercedes, and so does his live-in girlfriend. He has 5 kids and has not supported a single one of them. He only makes contact with them when they turn 18 and are out of high school…..

Jeff

July 29th, 2011
3:29 pm

Thanks all. I’ve followed those recommendations already. Having them reinforced ismalways helpful though. I refuse to say anything bad about her mother. The first reason is my daughter will figure it out herself one day. If she turns out be exactly like her mother, then my negative statements won’t matter anyway.

JJ, hopefully your daughter can learn what to NOT seek in a husband if she chooses to go that path one day.

motherjanegoose

July 29th, 2011
5:05 pm

@ Jeff…I did not understand your comment. My husband and son had a great time in Vegas. It was not really a big deal but our son is a whiz at math and pretty good with cards. He just learned a lesson that not everyone, or even most folks, wins in Vegas. They were both good with it. I do not care for it but that is just me! Have fun on your trip.

cofthenight

July 29th, 2011
5:08 pm

Just think of how long it would take for ALL the kids in the class to sharpen all their pencils, haha! Bring them already sharpened, people! :P I’m done with my Kindergartener’s list. I think I got really good deals (except for markers… I didn’t know any better…) I LOVE the smell of a new box of crayons! We are ready and excited for a new school year!!!

DB

July 29th, 2011
10:07 pm

@Jeff: I’m sorry — that’s got to be stressful, being told that you have no input whatsoever. All of the responsibility, and none of the authority makes for a no-win situation — for everyone.

@MJG and Jeff: We went to Vegas spring break a year ago, combined with a trip to the Grand Canyon. My daughter was bored out of her mind (18 at the time, which meant very little for her to do other than sightsee and shop), but my then-21-year old son enjoyed himself — cautiously. He took a modest amount to play with, and made a modest amount on top of that, but not being a natural risk taker, he said that it was fun, but he didn’t see the fascination. (He had enjoyed the “Las Vegas” TV series in reruns, I think he was a little surprised it was so — scruffy — off the Strip. Let’s face it — it’s a whole ‘nuther world, there! We were fascinated that the hotel rooms were so cheap ($22 in a nice hotel on Priceline!) and we all had a great time at the GC. And the Hoover Dam was awesome, as well as Death Valley and Red Rock Canyon.

motherjanegoose

July 30th, 2011
10:04 am

@DB and Jeff :)…

Guess I should have mentioned that our son had won quite a bit and then played the slots and lost it. THAT was why he realized he should have walked away. It certainly is an interesting place but not one I would put as an annual trip. I have met lots of people who go all the time and really enjoy themselves. Not me.

Not everyone enjoys the same places….good thing!

DB

July 30th, 2011
11:19 am

@MJG: Amen on that one — I’ve been to LV twice in my life, and I really don’t care if I ever go again. There are sooooo many other places I’d rather go! I’m always fascinated by people who make it a point to go to places like LV and Branson on a regular basis. I dunno — gambling just seems so boring to me. *shrug*

mom to four

July 31st, 2011
10:32 am

I will buy most of the items on the school supply list but I tell the teacher to let me know what she really needs but doesn’t receive from the list or runs out of midyear. I offer around December/January to restock items such as hand sanitizer, kleenex, etc. that she needs. If I see these items on sale at Costco or Big Lots, I pick up a few extra to send in thru the year. The teachers are always very appreciative. I just don’t think a teacher should have to supply items for my child out of her own pocket. I know these supplies are not just for my child, but my child benefits from these supplies. I also know not everyone has the financial means to help on this scale, but anyone can buy an extra bottle of hand sanitizer or box of pencils thru the year. Our donations to the school show our kids that education is important to us and we are active partners in their education.

motherjanegoose

July 31st, 2011
2:27 pm

@ mom to four…good for you! I used to tell the parents that their child’s education is like a 3 legged stool: parents/teacher/child. If we all do our part, the year will be level and somewhat smooth.

Kat

July 31st, 2011
6:08 pm

I cannot imagine the line of students at the pencil sharpener (esp if it is a self-managed one) for six dozen pencils! Theresa: I told Andy (and the blog) that our school had a package deal online – buy all the school supplies in a bundle that are requested, and the school gets a “cut,” and the rest goes to the company that bundles them. (So far) I have not had to buy anything other than backpacks. I would prefer that teachers send out “wish lists” to let us know what they would like (need) to have in their classrooms to stock them. Whether it is tissues or pencils, I presume everyone is sharing. I’m happy to put in my fair share and then some. When class t-shirts are ordered, I usually send in twice the amount so another kid can have a shirt that he/she might not otherwise have. I feel good and (presumably) so does the child who gets a shirt as well. Since I know my son’s teacher goes out of her way for each and every student, I show my appreciation by helping him/her out whenever I can with school supplies and so on. Sometimes, I just give a gift card to Wal-Mart, Target, etc so he/she can buy what they want/need for their classroom.