How We Let Our Kids Budget Their Back To School Clothes

How We Let Our Kids Budget Their Back to School ClothesAs our kids get increasingly older (now 12, 14, 15 & 16) we’ve been trying to figure out the best way to do back to school clothes shopping.

Part of the difficulty is that no two kids “need” the same amount of things.

And yes, I am talking about needs. We basically go by a 10-day system. 10 basic outfits gets them through once a week laundry. Then each kid might have 2-3 “nice” outfits (for the girls that’s dresses for concerts etc.). And of course as seasons go there’s needs for jackets etc. For shoes we basically keep the kids in one pair of athletic shoes, one pair of casual shoes and if needed one pair of “dress” shoes.

Two children went through major growth spurts in the last 6-9 months. They hobbled through summer on what they had but obviously their list of needs was greater than the other two.

One child had just gotten quite a bit of new clothes late in the spring due to his growth spurt so he didn’t need as much. And another one hasn’t grown much and had done some shopping throughout the year at various times.

So how do we budget in a way that seems “fair” (kid perception) but is based on needs not wants? How do we encourage our children to shop for sales and second hand items and encourage thriftiness? How do we put them in charge of more of the decisions while still making sure their needs are met?

Those are the questions we tried to answer this year before we headed out to hit the stores. Mark and I talked through ideas for probably good 45 minutes before we settled on a way to approach it.

1. I went through each child’s closet WITH them and pulled out all the items that no longer fit or were too stained to wear etc. (The nicer items will get taken to a consignment sale and that money will go toward the next shopping cycle.)

2. Together the child and I came up with a list of needs. This included thinking through shoes, belts, underwear, pajamas, etc.,

3. Mark and I then went through that list (not with the kids) and decided what we thought was a fair price for each kind of item. We based the prices off of shopping places like Old Navy, Target, Ross, Walmart etc. So, for example, shorts were $15, tshirts were $10, etc. I even budgeted out underwear and socks if they needed it.

4. We totaled up the amount of money each child’s needs would cost.

5. Their list and the correct amount of cash went into an envelope.

Now the tough part came when we had to consider what to do with the two kids who needed ZERO new tops/shirts and very little else. Obviously we recognize the desire to have fun new things to start the school year off with, but we also want to continue to teach our children the difference between needs and wants.

And of course, money doesn’t grow on trees. We have a limited budget.

One of those two kids has a summer job so he had some of his own cash and had already been talking about using it to buy some clothes.

The other child is what Dave Ramsey would call the “free spirit.” She rarely has money because she spends it as fast as she gets it. And usually not on anything of lasting value – food at the snack bar, etc. She has a hard time saving up for “just in case” or future things.

So we decided that we would give them an allotted “something new” budget amount. Enough to buy 4-5 new shirts.

We sat the kids down and explained what we did.

Then we laid down the incentive. If you could find the items on your list for less than the budgeted amount, then you could spend the extra money on any other clothing-related items you wanted. Likewise if you found a tshirt you wanted for $15, you could only buy it if you had been able to save $5 on other things on your list.

They had to get all of the items on the list (or hold back the budgeted amount if it wasn’t found that day). They couldn’t suddenly decide they would wear the same 3 shirts on repeat just so they could buy $70 shoes, for example.

And away we went.

We started at Plato’s Closet – a consignment shop that sticks to fashionable and trendy clothes and is picky about what they’ll buy. Beza has found stuff from here before, as have I. The boys spent roughly 3.5 minutes looking through the racks before they declared there was nothing for them.

We then hit Old Navy, Wal-Mart, Target, a shoe store etc. I was pretty impressed with how the kids did.

One kid got all the stuff on his list and had about $30 leftover. He put that with some of his own money and bought an extra pair of shoes.

Our “free spirit” (who got the “something new” budget) was able to save enough on her other purchases to buy 4 new shirts before she even dipped into her budgeted amount. So 6-7 new tops for her.

One child did really well finding some things she wanted that were more than the budgeted amount, but then balancing that out by finding great deals on others.

One child was, um, sleeping during instructions? Before we realized it he had spent 50% more than his budgeted amount on several of his items. At the end of shopping he still had stuff on his list and not enough of his budget to cover it. So he will either have find the remaining items under budget or he’ll have to pay back the difference. (I held on to this week’s lawn mowing money until we see if he can make up the difference.)

Overall we’re pretty happy with how it went and I think the kids enjoyed the freedom.

What are some ways you’re teaching your kids to budget and involving them in purchases?

Saving My Sanity During Back to School Supply Shopping

school supplies

It’s that glorious time of year when children all across the land are loading up on big yellow school buses and leaving our homes for 7 solid hours per day.

Now yes, I know that moms generally fall into one of two camps during August. There’s the “oh no, our lazy summer days are gone, I’m so sad” and then there’s the “halleluiah I don’t have to listen to another kid say ‘I’m bored’ or spend all day carting kids all over creation” group.

We in the Gumm household are firmly encamped in the latter.

Does that sound horrible?

While 1 of our 4 children is generally happy to spend all day perched at home and only appears for food or household chores. The other 3 are bored by about day 9.

Added to the complexity is that one parent works full time OUTSIDE the home and the other one works full time INSIDE the home. And not a “work it around trips to the pool and the zoo” kind of at home job, a “in front of the computer and on the phone 8-5” kind of job.

Work-at-home parent may also have sensory issues dealing with noise and a bit of ADD – a very lethal combination to summer time work focus.

Said parent just took his laptop into another room because my TYPING is too loud and he cannot think. Need I say more??

But with the joys of back to school comes the dreaded BACK TO SCHOOL SHOPPING.

Times four kids.

It makes me want to lose my mind.

The amount of money you can drop on freakin’ folders and pens is ridiculous!

Normally I’m right there in the aisles with their lists making sure they chose the 47 cent folder not the $3.99 folder.

But this year, I just could not deal.

It was the end of a week in which Mark was out of town and I had been doing all the carpooling and kid wrangling (2 in sports practice and 1 working a summer job) while working.

It was tax free weekend and we were at Wal-Mart. (Pretty much the only place to shop in our tiny town.)

Thankfully we have NEARLY reached the peak of school supply shopping ease. The two sophomores GLORIOUSLY have no school supply list. It’s the “your 16, figure it out yourselves” philosophy and I ADORE it.

The girls are now both at the middle school and the list is surprisingly short. (Yes, moms of elementary-aged kids there will come a day when you don’t have to buy every product made by Crayola and Elmer’s. There was nary an item by either of those companies on our lists this year.)

Oh, and did I mention that I am still nursing the ankle injury that happened 4 weeks ago??? Walking around Walmart sucks the life out of me.

So what did I do? I parked my cart at the end of an aisle.

And I stood.

And they shopped, came back and added stuff to the growing pile in the cart.

They asked a question here and there and then went off to shop some more.

And I stood there. And I didn’t really care if they bought a $3.99 folder with some You Tube star that I’ve never heard of (because You Tubers are the new teen celebrities).

When they were done I paid.

I tried not to choke at the total.

We were in and out in 25 minutes.

My sanity remained in tact.

And SOMETIMES that’s worth more than sticking to the budget.

Do I necessarily advise this method of supply shopping on a yearly basis? No.

Next year I’m just going to make one of the driver-licensed teenage boys take everyone :-)

Stay tuned for part 2 on clothes shopping. We tried something new this year.

Our Ethiopia Trip – Arriving to Family

LukeGrammieOur Monday flight from Dubai to Ethiopia was a “quick” 4 hours and we arrived there a little after 1:30 p.m. Dad rushed us off the plane and into the Visa line to beat the crowd. Surprise…visa prices had gone up $30 each since his last trip. Darn.

All morning you could tell that anxiety levels were a little elevated. It showed in some of us more than others. I gave the kids one last pep talk as we headed into baggage claim. It was probably all forgotten by the time we waited nearly an hour to collect our 3 large bags. (Are you impressed with our packing skills? I was.)

We headed out through those double doors to the greeting area. Off to the right I first spotted our guesthouse driver with our name on the paper. About the same time, the kids family came from the opposite direction. I gave the driver a quick “hey, that’s us” nod before we were surrounded with everyone. I kind of lost count but I think there were at least 8 or 10 family & friends that were there. I think I hugged our friend Pastor Fekadu first. (His wife is best friends with an aunt of the kids.)

In Ethiopia they great you by kissing each cheek (sort of like the French). Sometimes you get a repeat and it ends up being 3 or 4 so it takes awhile to get through everyone.

When I turned around I saw Grammie (that’s what we’ve always called their Ethiopian grandmother) walking slowly toward me with roses in her hand. We reached out to greet each other and kind of stalled out on the first cheek kiss and ended up just clutching each other and crying. We finally managed to finish our greeting and she could then hug and kiss the kids and Mark. They got much the same greeting as I did.

You could tell everyone was amazed at how the kids had grown.

When we finally finished all the hellos we decided that we would all go and have coffee somewhere. That gave us a chance to visit for a bit but they also realized we’d be tired and wanted to let us settle in.

Someone took some pictures of the airport greeting session but I haven’t gotten them. I did capture the one above of Grammie & Luke. She wouldn’t let him go and she walked with him all the way to the van.

We were quite the crowd at the coffee shop. Between our drive and a couple of the family members who speak good English we did okay. Grammie was pretty quiet – soaking it all in I think. After we left we got checked into the guesthouse which was without electricity (never fails). Even after we got back from dinner it was still out. So we got ready for bed by candlelight. A couple people got quick, lukewarm showers and we were out.