Erica is a writer, editor, wife, and mom. She has always found employment with an English degree and she excels at nurturing children and animals but struggles to keep houseplants alive. Erica currently writes at

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Back to School Nickel and Diming

My older son started 1st grade this school year.  When I received his school supply list, I was mildly shocked: 4 notebooks, multiple sets of markers, pencils, paints (thick and thin, specific brands), scissors, many many glue sticks, a clipboard, and cleaning supplies. All in all, I figure we spent over $60 on supplies spread out over 4 stores, and that was with a reused backpack and lunch box.

Well thank goodness that hurdle was cleared, let’s head back to school!


first day of school


But then the other back to school expenses started rolling in.

$5 for a field trip shirt; a Chuck-E-Cheese fundraiser; a Yankee Candle sales fundraiser (thank you, school, for holding a convocation wherin a talking bumblebee makes a Yankee Candle sales pitch to first graders. There was NO confusion as to how and why they would all drive a stretch Hummer limo to a bounce house party after selling a certain amount of Yankee stuff); $9.50 for a field trip; a Scholastic book order; a local BBQ fundraiser; arm bands and tickets for the fall carnival.

school funds

I’m all for education, but does anyone else think this is overkill? I remember picking out a new folder and a cardboard pencil box for school, and later in the year selling a few $1 chocolate bars.  We are not even four weeks into the school year and I feel bled dry.  This doesn’t even include the cost of fall sports and music lessons that we choose privately–the above list is just for ordinary public school.

How do other schools roll out these back to school programs, and how do families with tight budgets and/or more kids handle it all?



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Comments (9)

  1. Rachael 09/16/2013 at 1:13 pm

    The fundraiser should be every mom’s dram fundraiser. It’s fast and FREE. Free money from a store we’ve all given way too much to. What is the downside? I get the annoyance with fundraisers, but maybe you could attend a PTA or PTO meeting and see where it goes or contact the President or Treasurer …you might be surprised.:-) Full disclosure: I’m a PTO mom and current President. We don’t expect every family to participate in every fundraiser. We hope our families pick and choose and do what works for them. PTO/PTA should be about community and support too, not just fundraising.

  2. Allison Randall 09/16/2013 at 12:36 pm

    I can’t even begin to afford any of this. We’re on WIC and Food Stamps at my place. The school won’t get any of our meager income. I provide blogging skills to promote school activities and offer up any other skills I have. The $300 per child that the (public) school asks for as a donation would be nearly half our paycheck, so I don’t even try. It’s kind of freeing to not even be close to being able to afford extra activities. My kindergartner seems happy enough going to the park for free and coloring. I don’t think she’s missing out. We’ll see what happens when she gets older.

  3. Debra Ferrie 09/11/2013 at 5:45 am

    With 3 kids and a limited budget, I pick and choose which are the priorities of the month! I didn’t add up back to school purchases but it had to be nearly $50 per child, and then they came home needing more ( a sketch book, an extra folder, etc) And of course, soccer times 2 and dance, plus clothes. I can’t always participate in these school fundraisers that come home week 1!

  4. Jacki 09/10/2013 at 9:41 pm

    Between all the registration fees, textbook fees, activity fees, elective course fees, athletic dept. fees and yearbook fees, we spent $500 for our ONE 9th grader. That didn’t include the monthly bus fees, lunch fees or camera rental. Nor did it include the $1500 for JV cheerleading uniform. It’s nuts!!

  5. Mary 09/10/2013 at 2:18 pm

    Same at our school. Money is flowing out at a rapid speed. Don’t forgot to budget for school pictures too! Gets even pricier when you have more than 1 kid to buy all that stuff for!

  6. rebecca at thisfineday 09/10/2013 at 11:57 am

    I’m a new public school mom. My daughter just entered kindergarten. Fundraising is in full swing already here! There is a T-shirt design contest (which they want to sell the winning design), an online auction that is in the works, A PTA suggested donation to all incoming Kindergarteners to pay “one more month $$” of whatever care or preschool they were in prior to entering school to the PTA. There’s the Target/FB fundraising thing that’s going on now. There’s the eat out to support schools (where they get local restaurants give a percentage if not all of the $$ they earn on a particular day to the schools. The amount of fundraising is crazy, but I guess the schools need it? I’d be interested to see what other interesting fundraising other schools do….

  7. Shannon 09/10/2013 at 11:38 am

    Ha! $60?? Consider yourself lucky. My oldest started high school and I paid:
    $45 yearbook
    $10 paperback book fee
    $195 freshman fee
    $150 to join the booster club (this will allow my family entrance to all athletic events and since my daughter is a cheerleader, we will attend many)
    $150 for cheerleading (sport fee)
    $300 cheerleading camp in July
    $200 for camp workout clothes (will be used again)
    $200 for cheerleading warmup, duffle bag and other necessities
    This does NOT include school supplies (binder and spiral notebook for each class, calculator, pens/pencils, etc.) PLUS an Apparel Design class she’s taking and I already spent $20 on fabrice for the first project.

  8. Rachael 09/10/2013 at 10:05 am

    Dude. I thought I was going to outsmart the school supply issue this year and order everything online. Bad choice. I thought Amazon would be the best. School supplies showed up in 7 different shipments, some containing 1 item, like sticky notes. Ultimately, when I went to Target I saw that everything was cheaper. All around hassle!

    Also getting hit with all of the school fundraisers. My kids are not getting to the age that they play on more competitive sports teams – $1500 a year for soccer. KILLING ME! I’ve got a friend who is paying $2000 + a year for dance.

    I need 3 more jobs.

  9. Ana 09/10/2013 at 8:15 am

    I can soooo relate! My son’s school offered $60 supply kits, so parents didn’t have to shop,and I thought that was a lot…until I went shopping on my own and spent even more than that. Great story!