Back-to-school shopping strategies -- the pencil case lesson

By Lisa McCarthy

Pencil CaseOh yes, back-to-school. The lazy days of summer are gone -- no homework, no school lunches, no panic runs to the store for something they need that is due tomorrow.

So off I go on the dreaded school supply hunt. Groan.

This year my daughter was at camp right up until the last day, so I got most of the shopping done myself -- except for the last few items.

Inevitably, my daughter and I had to pick up the few last things on the list. Groan.

It started with the pencil case. This was a big decision involving color, design and three holes to fit in her binder. She looked and looked and finally found the perfect one for $7.99!

“I am not spending $8.00 on a pencil case” I said.

“But, mom its so cool and look how it has a hologram and matches my binder perfectly” she replied so sweetly.

I saw a mom next to me smirk. I was determined to stand my ground. I went to the $3.99 bin and started going through pencil cases one by one holding them up as she shook her head. I knew she was going to try and wear me down, but I still was holding my ground. I also knew this could take all night, but I refused to budge.

Then I got an idea. With some quick calculations in my head and hoping my math skills wouldn’t fail me, I said, “OK -- here is how much you can spend tonight. Here is what you need for school. You figure it out I will wait up front.”

About a half hour later she came back with a smile on her face and all her school supplies in hand for exactly the amount I gave her. She went to the cash register to pay.

“Mom I forgot about tax!” she exclaimed worriedly.

I looked down at the pencil holder she chose for $2.99. I think I could let the tax part slide since she learned her lesson. Now I know just how I am going to handle back-to-school shopping next year!

Lisa McCarthyLisa Laughton McCarthy is a mom with a passion! As the founder of MoneySmartKidz and author of "The Money Tree," Lisa, takes delight in finding fun creative ways to help show young children the value of financial independence! Her first book "The Money Tree," with its eye-catching illustrations, is the answer to every parent who wants to give their child a head start on the road to financial independence.

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