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COLUMN: Cherishing memories over back-to-school materialism

Choosing sustainability and sentiment over the seasonal shopping spree
Rows of lockers await, holding the silent stories of countless school days past and those yet to come. (moren hsu/Unsplash)

Growing up, my grandma would take me shopping just before school started and buy me a new outfit that I could wear on my first day back to school.

It was such a special time, and one I always looked forward to. I had a lot of siblings and a lot more cousins so the fact that she would take me out for the afternoon alone was so special. One-on-one time with an adult was hard to come by and buying new clothes was a treat.

By now, most students are back to school. And according to a recent study, most parents are holding their breath for the next credit card statement with all the back-to-school shopping purchases on it.

I tried not to go overboard with back-to-school shopping, only buying the necessities this year. My daughter is going into Kindergarten and her backpack from preschool is still in good shape, however, it is a bit small.

I started to fret about buying her a new one, it is still fine but I was worried about the size. Should I just buy her a bigger one? Then it dawned on me, I don’t need to buy her one right now. If we discover it is too small in a month, then we can shop.

The pressure to buy everything new and sparkly in September is silly.

Stores still sell backpacks in November. And my kids don’t need a whole new wardrobe for the fall season. We can slow down and assess and buy as we go along.

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However, a lot of parents are feeling the pinch lately. Inflation is high, everything is expensive and kids have a long list of things they need or want for school.

According to the Back to School 2023 Shopping in Canada Survey, done by the Retail Council of Canada and Caddle, consumers are planning to spend carefully this year and are more focused on purchasing lower-priced items than in years past.

About 73 per cent of Canadians who plan to make back-to-school purchases plan to spend more than $50.

This is a great opportunity to teach our children not to be wasteful. It is hard on the wallets and our environment. Last year’s backpack still works? Great, we don’t need a new one, simply for the sake of buying one.

Need new clothes? Let’s check out a second-hand shop, and not contribute more fast fashion to the landfills.

This is chance to teach our kids not to be persuaded by society’s ideals that we need new and fancy things every school year. We don’t have to keep up with the Joneses.

While I loved shopping with my grandma, I know that memories can be made without having to spend a lot of money.

Back to school is a special time and should be treated so, but it doesn’t need to break the bank nor be a wasteful time.

Let’s find other ways than shopping to celebrate our kids growing older, having opportunities to learn and hitting new milestones.


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Marisca Bakker

About the Author: Marisca Bakker

Marisca was born and raised in Ontario and moved to Smithers almost ten years ago on a one-year contract.
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