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Sunday, June 7, 2009

Getting Ready for College the Frugal Way

My daughter, Miss Em, is truly divine. That is because she sees herself as a part of our frugal family and thinks about what she wants and what she doesn't want. Last week, I ran into an acquaintance at a consignment sale. She was frantically gathering up all the Vera Bradley bags, which to me seemed somewhat shabby and overpriced, and calling her daughter Sophie to see what would do.

You see, Vera Bradley is de rigueur on college campuses, much as LL Bean backpacks with monogram were required back in junior high. Sometimes kids DO need to fit in. I told the mom about the sale section on the Vera Bradley website, which offers prices lower than those at the consignment sale. She found the bag Sophie wants, but even on sale it was $69.00. I said, "That would be a great going-to-college gift." The mom looked dubious and said, "But she needs so much other stuff. A comforter set. A new waste basket. Matching message board." On and On.

When I got home, I asked Miss Em if she wanted a new comforter. Really, I worry about my pathological frugality sometimes. I don't want my kids to become crazed materialists or to feel shabby because of me. Miss Em rolled her eyes. She is happy with the cute Marimekko truck comforter Frugal Son used in his toddler years.

So the key, as always for me, is to THINK it through first and then find a frugal way. Both my children got their Bean backpacks. Frugal Son said, "I have achieved a level of normality I never dreamed possible." Miss Em got her Vera Bradley duffel bag WAY on sale early in the spring. They got what they wanted.

And, if you really need new linens for college, I'd say to check out the Garnet Hill sale, which should be coming up very soon (June or July). I got Miss Em some funky pillowcases there for $2.00!

Dear Readers, how do you work through the issues of convention, needs, and wants with your students? Or with yourselves??


Duchesse said...

I buy all our linens at Garnet Hill, ever since I read Penelope Leach's advice to make your child's bed a welcoming place, with nice linens. Sometimes on sale, sometimes not.

Getting ready for college was minmal for us as one son lived in the dorm for a year, 5 miles from home and at home the rest of the time, and other son lives here while working. NOW comes the big push, as we expect them to head off by the end of this year. So I am stockpiling 'older but not wrecked' towels, kitchen essential,etc.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Duchesse--Oh, I love Penelope Leach. I gave away all my baby books and only read hers. Love your idea of stocking up for your sons.

Funny about Money said...

OMG! You still have the Marimekko truck comforter??? Wow! That's a major accomplishment in museum-quality preservation...M'hijito's wore completely out.

By the time M'hijito got to college, he was used to being the scruffy kid. We sure couldn't afford to keep up with the Joneses at the expensive private day school he attended.

One woman in our car pool bought her preschool-age son a different pair of Vans for!!! My kid was wearing tennies from FedMart at the time. FedMart was the precursor of Price Club; it was significantly more downscale than PC.

Probably not fitting in with the other kids was not very good for him. He's a pretty countercultural adult with no sense of what's appropriate for business wear (he may know, but he refuses to wear it). But he sure is good at managing money.

sallymandy said...

Frugal, I'm not sure I have a ready answer to your questions, but I had to say I'm struck, as I have been before, with how similar your thinking seems to be to Amy D. of the Tightwad Gazette (won't even attempt to spell her last name). I love Amy's approach, and was an avid student of hers for years. Some of her concepts have changed my way of thinking about money forever, for the better.

I tend to seek the safety of moderation when dealing with my daughter and school "needs" and "wants." I tell her "some kids have way more stuff than you, some have less. You can be in the middle." I try not to follow every whim, but also not force her to feel deprived.

As always, remembering that we have choices is key.

Also, Frugal, I wanted to thank you for your kind comment this morning. I changed my reader appreciation post to include people who read but don't always have time to comment. I certainly understand that--and always enjoy your posts as well.

Frugal Scholar said...

@sallymandy--Many thanks, once more, for a thoughtful comment. It's funny that you should compare me to Amy D, because I am a sad case in the domestic skills department. But she is a wonderful writer, so I hope I share that! Truly, though, I often find that she "said it all" in her books. That may be because frugality only has a few basic tenets--choice, as you say, is key.

camorra said...

This is basically what happened at my house, but in July. I bought my college things relatively early because I started college on Aug. 1 when I went to IU's early freshman seminar.