Thursday, August 30, 2012

School Expenses - Finance Friday

Back to school is one of my favorite times of the year. I love summer but I can't live in summer.
I need routine. I need rhythm.
I also need my kids to go somewhere else sometimes.

Back to school season is also very, very costly.

Here's a list of real expenses we've faced in just the last month:

Hair cuts* Supplies Shoes Clothes Book fees* Bus passes* Lunch money* Registration fees*
Activity fees* Dry cleaning fees* Instrument reeds Lab tech fees* Gym shirt Band shirt Football shirt School pictures*
Football pictures* Soccer pictures* Soccer registration
Soccer shoes Shin guards Swimming registration Swim suit
Team fundraisers*

and because we have a senior we've just ordered graduation announcements and her cap and gown.

It's. Been. Stressful.

I understand that opportunities, experiences and extra curricular activities come at a cost. The price, I argue, is too much for more families than you would think. I realize that our Tribe's current financial situation causes me to be acutely sensitive in this area but ... c'mon! Isn't that an excessive list?

I've sat at my kitchen table night after night in the last few weeks filling out order forms for this team, for that social club and for that required piece of equipment writing check after check.

Bounce much?

Now, the argument begs to be made - if you can't afford football shoes and a team shirt that you can't play football.

And I would agree.

But my rub is this .... it's my financial situation that can't fund football, not my son's. Why should he miss out on the opportunity because my three jobs aren't enough for extra curricular activities?

But that's just silly sports you say?
You're right.
But it is also an opportunity to be a part of a team. To learn leadership skills. To learn life lessons about playing together, trying hard and (maybe) taste the sweet nectar of victory. He'll also learn how to deal with defeat, perhaps an even more important life skill. Playing football means he must be organized and responsible to balance school work as well as the opportunity to be active and exercise.

Or he could sit in front of his video game system and play from the couch.

What about band?
I have a saxophone and trombone player. Both received free instruments from generous grandparents & family friends but they need equipment, music, black shoes, t-shirt and a dry cleaning fee to undo what a year of junior high hormone swings does to the uniforms.

Spanish club?
Swim Team?

Each of these opportunities are extra curricular.
A choice.
But how can I choose to refuse the opportunities that build my child's mind, body and spirit?
I don't.
I don't say "No!".
Maybe I should. But despite the stress these events cause I allow my kids to participate in one extra curricular activity each. It's not their fault we are still climbing our way out of this financial downturn. So I let them play, march and practice.

In order to do that we
bought shoes at a garage sale,
use hand-me-down equipment whenever possible,
skipped school pictures this year
and count the change in the junk drawer for extra milk money.

By no means do I think these things should be free.
And if I could afford all of it this whole blog would be a non issue for me.
But that's the thing ... it is my issue.
It's a reality.
I know I can't be the only mother out there who is working her tail off and still falling short. And if I'm not alone why do I feel like I am? Why aren't we talking about this more?

COMMENTS WELCOME: How do you deal with Back-to-School expenses? Have you had to be creative in coming up with the money for sports or other extra curricular activities?

It's Finance Friday on my blog. The day of the week I dedicate to documenting our current bout living with a salary that falls below the poverty line. I appreciate you reading this. There are more blogs in the world than ever, the fact that you took the time to read mine ... I thank you! xo Stephanie
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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