Ah, “Back to School”. So exciting, right? I guess…in some ways. As a special educator, “Back to School” does not just apply to my children but to me as well. Back to work, back to our routines, back to busy schedules and back our “normal” lives. I find comfort in routine and I’m much more productive and in many ways happier once we are all clicking along on a nice schedule of school, lessons, and sports. I enjoy work and I get a bit sluggish and antsy by the end of summer. I’m ready to get back to the job I love.

Unfortunately, however, “Back to School” also means spending money at close to holiday season levels. In fact, I honestly feel as if I have absolutely no extra money from late August through Christmas. This is why:

1. Registration Fees. It starts early in August and gently enough. The emails start to come in: “Early-bird Girl Scout Registration due now!”, “Register for Fall soccer by August 31st to assure your favored team!”. Then those emails and other reminders come more often as the month wears on. Religious education registration, dance classes, art class…and they just keep coming.

2. School supplies and school clothes. As I was shopping for supplies for our Fourth of July weekend I rounded the corner in the store and saw this:

school supplies

Just shameful.

I successfully avoided this entire section of the store for another month or so until I was forced to finally admit that I had better get in there before it was completely emptied by zealous parents and teachers eager to stock up on school supplies no matter what the date is on the calendar. Backpacks, lunch boxes, binders, folders, paper, pencils, crayons, post-it notes…all get tossed into the cart as I quietly take out of the cart that cute bottle of nail polish I had found earlier and the socks I love to run in that I desperately needed. Along with all of the necessary school supplies we also need to grab some new clothes, shoes, and sneakers. And the money is beginning to flow freely now…

3. Fall sports equipment. My girls play soccer so this time of year I’m digging for cleats and praying that I only have to buy one pair. We also need to check out the shin guards and socks and each girl needs a soccer ball of the appropriate size. My sister-in-law has a football player and I don’t even complain about the cost of soccer around her since she always dominates that pity party. Hockey families? Wowzers.

4. School pictures (and sports pictures). I usually do not splurge for haircuts for my girls until this point in September because of all of the above mentioned costs but I will fix them up for picture day. After all, I will be spending about $100 (or more) on those pictures so they need to look their best. Right around the time I write out that check for the school pictures we get the notice for sports pictures. These pictures almost always come out looking horrific since it’s usually raining or extremely windy on that day but, sure, here’s some more money.

5. Halloween costumes and candy. In early August I saw THIS in the grocery store and I almost screamed loud enough to embarrass myself:



For me this was worse than seeing the school supplies out in July. Halloween, however, approaches pretty quickly once we get into the school year and the kids begin to pick out those perfect costumes that they must have by the first week of October. If I don’t get my act in gear soon thereafter all of the good costumes are gone from the stores. And GOD FORBID any of my children wears a hand-me-down costume from one of her sisters from years past. Three new costumes, coming up! I do not, however, buy any candy before I absolutely have to because, well, it will be eaten…by me.

6. Winter gear. As soon as the temperature outside dips to about forty degrees I begin to think about winter gear. With three girls I do my best to pass down winter coats, snow boots, snow pants, mittens, hats, and scarves but I always need at least one of everything and often two. All three of them usually need new “every day” boots to wear as well. We also buy at least one sled or snow tube and maybe a shovel. For those of you who ski—I can’t even imagine the money ski season must cost you with kids.

7. Christmas. Christmas is the time of giving and I really have appreciated the art of giving much more as I’ve become a parent and as I’ve aged. However, once your children are school-aged the list of possible gift recipients is just endless. Teachers, coaches, bus drivers, religious education teachers, teachers of any lessons your children may take, daycare providers, babysitters…I could go on, and on, and on. All of these people are of course secondary to the list of family members you may have. Those of us old enough to have multiple siblings who have now had multiple children each can REALLY begin to feel the pinch. All of those sweet nieces and nephews deserve gifts but wow…it adds up.

So please excuse me while I shut off my AC to cut my electric bill, clip some coupons, and dump those movie channels for a few months. It’s “Back to School” and I’ve got to find some money.