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Love and Hate

The ups, downs and overall delights of parenthood
Aug 31, 2011
08:22 AM

Love & Hate: I Hate Back-to-School Shopping

Every year we're supposed to stalk off to the store for the requisite, back-breaking back-to-school shopping trip. But why?

Love & Hate: I Hate Back-to-School Shopping

I have a frugal, environmentally conscious mom friend who shocked me last year by declaring that she doesn't believe in back-to-school shopping.

What? Isn't it a necessity, like following the rest of the lemmings off the cliff? I mean, the stores keep telling me I have to go, so I should, shouldn't I? But when you think about it, do we really all have to go to the store and buy tons of new clothes for our kids every August?

Asking myself that question reminds me of the time I wore my brand new clothes on the first day of high school. They were my newest and coolest clothes, so I had to show them off, right? So I walked to school on an 80-degree September day wearing my pretty new duds – long dark slacks and a maroon sweater over a fetching blouse. But I'm not sure how good I looked, considering I was all soggy with sweat and grunting with discomfort.

Not a good plan.

And what is the point? Most of September and part of October are pretty much as hot as the summer, so the kids can wear the same clothes they've been wearing for the past three months, right? If I buy my girls long pants and long sleeve shirts in July or August, they won't be wearing them till mid-October, and by then they'll be halfway to outgrowing them! Aren't we being bamboozled by the retailers?

Now, I'm not completely crazy. I know this is a good time of year to drag out all the kids' clothes and have them try on everything to decide what we can keep, what needs to be donated and what has to be pitched as soon as possible. And then I have to buy some new clothes and shoes to replace the ones they've worn out or outgrown over the summer. But I don't have to buy them all new wardrobes. And I'm not going to put a premium on making sure they have all new clothes for the first week, either.

According to one estimate, the average American family with two kids spends over $800 buying back-to-school clothes and supplies. It seems to me that a lot of that money is spent on obligatory new outfits just because that's what EVERYONE does. What does EVERYONE know, anyway?

Last year, after I pondered this for a while, I sent my girls back to school on their first day wearing some of their favorite, prettiest summer clothes that were not brand new. They didn't seem to mind. They looked good. And no one remembered that they had been worn before.

So I'll be buying my girls just a few things to fill out the wardrobes they already have, and send them to school looking nice and comfortable next week. Hopefully the pediatric detail of the Fashion Police won't be writing us any tickets.

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