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Jenniffer's Journey:

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait for Christmas morning, excited to see the presents under the tree, ready to rip the wrapping paper off, in anticipation of the treasures I’d find. As an adult, I still love Christmas, but for much different reasons. It’s far more spiritual and meaningful on a different level.   

As the parent of a teenager, that excitement on Christmas morning isn’t quite the same as it used to be. Now, the one day of the year that I get really excited for is the first day of school! Summer is tough for parents, particularly for parents of kids who are too old for day care but not old enough to drive themselves to a job. That’s where I’m at with Ashley. Needless to say, it’s been a challenging Project Money summer trying to find things for her to do that a) don’t cost an arm and a leg and b) allow me to actually go to the office and work and not worry about trying to get her to and from a “half day camp” that starts at 10 am and ends at 2 pm. I for one am looking forward to the schedule and routines that come with going back to school. 

Christmas and the first day of school are a lot alike. On Christmas morning, Ashley gets excited. On the first day of school, I do. In the days and weeks leading up to Christmas, we shop. In the days and weeks leading up to the first day of school, we shop. If you think about it, we are buying some of the same things for both:  clothes and electronics. And we have lists for both. The only difference is we have far less flexibility with the school supply lists than we do with our kids’ Christmas lists. After all, apparently a graphing calculator is a required school supply (really??? if you can’t do it in your head, on your fingers, on paper, or with your iPhone then what kind of a math “problem” is it?).

Thanks to Project Money and my shifting money mindset, I’m far more mindful about the school supplies I am buying this year. For example, the other day on my walk back to the pharmacy (strategically placed in the back of the store), I noticed that 3 ring binders were buy one get one free. I quickly price checked other stores where they weren’t BOGO and did the math (in my head….no graphing calculator needed) and snagged up the BOGO binders. I also snagged up the 2 for 1 generic post it notes which were half the price of the name brand post its. In the Sunday paper, I noticed that another store had a sale on a 5 pack of pencils for 29 cents. Another store has a deal on spiral notebooks. Plus, I insisted on saving the left over supplies from last school year, so Ashley can reuse those dry erase markers that were completely necessary (but never used) and that 6th (!?) spiral notebook with only 2 pages used.  

So, here’s this week’s financial fun fact:  we all look for deals while Christmas shopping - ever heard of a day called Black Friday? Or Cyber Monday? Take that same hunt for deals and use it for all those back to school necessities. Check different stores for sales and check the store’s price match policy. You might be able to save yourself another trip if you can get the store to price match. Also, consider resale stores for clothes. I love Plato’s Closet and Style Encore in the Madison area. Oh, and the graphing calculator – try eBay or a family member or friend that has one you can use. Pretty sure they haven’t used it since high school.

This year, to celebrate the back to school holiday, I am going to wrap all of Ashley’s back to school “gifts” and put them right next to the front door on the first day of school. I might even dig out the Christmas stocking and hang it from the door knob (29 cent pencils make great stocking stuffers!). I’ll have my camera ready just like I do on Christmas morning to capture her face when she sees all those wonderful “presents” waiting for her on back to school day. And then, when she heads off to the bus stop for that first day of school, I’ll be singing a merry tune. After all, this is the most wonderful time of the year. 


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