Back to School shopping

My daughter enters the fifth grade tomorrow. In her district, this involves moving to a new school and riding the bus with the big kids. I have never really taken her back-to-school shopping. Instead, I quietly purchase the necessities and her grandmother buys her an outfit or two and that’s the end of it.

Not this year.

She’s older so I thought I’d make back-to-school shopping a lesson in how to handle money. We started by taking $200 out of her savings account. I had already purchased the sneakers, jeans, new coat, backpack and school supplies required. We also had cleaned her drawers, sorting everything by size and removing the items that were too small, soon to be too small or just not her style any more. Those will be passed on to another child.

At the bank, she filled out her own withdrawal slip and we headed to the counter where the teller asked her how she preferred her money. She left with an envelope of mixed bills. We kept the receipt so she could keep that inside the envelope and track her purchases. I took a “mommy” envelope for the times where she would need me to pay with my credit card.

She made a list of items she wanted. With our list in hand (and eventually forgotten in her wallet) we went to the thrift store. The thrift store I frequent is a little… shady. I told my daughter not to bother trying anything on, that we’d buy it, wash it, and then try it. If it didn’t fit, we’d donate it away. We arrived during 65% hour.

We found a pair of Ralph Lauren corduroys, skinny style, with snaps at the ankles. We found two tank tops with the built-in shelf bras. We found a camouflage tank top and a polka dot long sleeve shirt. By far, her favorite discovery was the black cropped sweatshirt, zipper down with a hood, covered with Muppet style fuzz. Total spent: $8

Next, we headed to Target. Since I work at Target, we have my employee discount plus an additional 5% off if we use my RedCard. Hence, the Mommy envelope. And this particular sales week had $5 off a $20 Target brand underwear purchase. We bought two bras, ten pairs of underwear, four pairs of socks, and a pair of buckle laden black ankle boots. Total spent: $50.

After Target, we went to the mall. I have a Gap visa which I opened one year when I wanted to buy the child a coat. The extra percentage off made the deal sweeter. This summer, the financial company offered 10X reward points on purchases outside the Gap. So, when typically it requires $1,000 in purchases for a $10 Gap gift card, this promotion meant you received a $10 gift card with only $100 in purchases. I “earned” $50 in gift cards for making the Gap card my primary card for the summer (which I pay off in full every time the bill arrives).

My daughter found a cropped sweater, a cropped red zipper down sweatshirt and a sweatshirt dress with pocket in the front. She paid $9. I put it on my Gap card and she gave me the cash for the Mommy envelope.

Now a Mommy-daughter shopping trip is never complete without lunch. Child wanted wings. She loves chicken wings on the bone. Her first thought was Buffalo Wild Wings. But after consideration, she decided on the pub near our house. I’m sure Shruty’s Pub appreciates that she chose to support the local, family-owned business.

Our final stop was The Crossings Premium Outlets. I explained to dear daughter that her money wouldn’t go nearly as far here. Her first stop was Charlotte Russe. She bought two shirts for $23. Then we visited Forever 21. She found a leopard print skirt, a nice blouse, and an umbrella for $38.

“Mommy,” she said, “this place really does eat your money.”

She had grown tired at this point. But she really wanted shoes. Women’s shoes. We went to one outlet and it was athletic shoes which didn’t interest her. We had several shoes stores lined up in front of us: Merrill, Easy Spirit and Bass among them. But those are all sensible shoes. The one at the end of the row interested me most and I knew it would appeal to her too. Nine West. We entered and I think my daughter found nirvana.

Now, my daughter is ten. She wanted some heels. She can’t wear heels to school, and she’s spending her own money, so I don’t want to tell her what to buy. I allowed her to pick out one pair of ridiculous sparkly strappy shoes. She wanted two. One pair was platform. She didn’t keep those. She decided on a beaded pink pair and a pair of leopard pumps. She spent $45.

The depletion of her envelope made her visibly sad. She opted to stop shopping and bring home the remaining few dollars.

I asked if she understood why we shopped in the order we did.

“What would have happened if we came here first?” I asked.

“I would have spent all my money,” she said.


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