My ex asked if the kids needed anything for school. I sent her the school supplies list. She responded with “You can go ahead and get those.” She has since purchased a lot of stuff they don’t really need instead; mostly clothing. You can probably figure out why that was a priority for her, since we have girls..
At any rate, I didn’t need my ex to help buy anything, but she asked. And promptly ignored my request. Even after I’d shown her that I already purchased the backpacks, the most expensive thing on the list. More expensive, it turns out, than all of the other items combined.
I was pretty bitter about this in the beginning, but then I decided to make it into a learning experience for the kids. So I gave them a budget and told them that they had to purchase everything on their list using that money and no more. We went to the store and I turned them loose in the school supplies aisle. It worked. Better than expected.
Setting This Up
To start with, I printed three copies of the school supplies list from their school. One for each child (we’re adding in my son here, not part of the “ex” deal). I then went to Walmart.com and quickly priced things to get a rough figure on the totals involved. Any store site will do as most stores will be within a few bucks, so whatever your retailer of choice, use their website or one similar. I then rounded it up, added on another 20% for tax and unexpecteds, and then had a budget. It worked out to about $10 per child.
Then came the actual shopping. I explained to the kids what the plan was, gave them the rundown of the budget, and then we loaded into the car and headed for the store.
The goal here was to let the kids keep track of their own budget and purchase totals and hold them to it once it was all done. The kids eagerly started looking at the stuff in the aisles and began learning that budgets mean not getting the shiniest, neato-est thing on the shelf. They got blingy-looking pencils, but didn’t get the huge and fat glue sticks they wanted, settling for the less interesting “normal” ones. They went with colored boxes of tissues that matched their styles and went cheap on the erasers.
In the end, the shopping went really well and it was a learning experience for the kids. It required math, decision-making, and some strategy. And they were all under budget.