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Palm Coast Monday, Aug. 14, 2017 3 years ago

How my attempts to be delightfully frugal got thwarted during back-to-school shopping

Are you really the only kid in school without a cell phone?
by: Brian McMillan Executive Editor

The beginning of another school year brings with it some time-honored traditions. First, we have to buy pencils. It doesn’t matter that we have 172 perfectly good pencils in a kitchen drawer; we have to buy more.

Second, we have to buy new shoes. Being a cheapskate, or, as I like to call it, delightfully frugal, I always have some suggestions. While my son is trying on a pair of expensive shoes that he’ll grow out of in six days, I hang out by the clearance shelf and offer alternatives.

“How about these?” I suggest.

“They’re two sizes too big,” I’m told.

“That’s why I work at a newspaper office. We can wad up some of my favorite editions and voila! You have a toe cushion.”

“I don’t think so, Dad.”

“And the best part is, when your feet grow, you can just discard the newspaper bit by bit for a perpetually perfect fit.”

Then, we have to buy folders. There are always two bins at Walmart: one with plain folders that cost 20 cents each, and one with folders that have ugly designs for 75 cents each. My kids sometimes pick the more expensive folders, but not without a passive-aggressive reminder from Dear Old Dad:

“For those extra 55 cents, that folder better help you get a college scholarship,” I tell them. “Otherwise, it’s best for the whole family if you buy the sensible folder.”

But among all the traditions, there is one new twist this year. According to my son, Jackson, who is in eighth grade, everyone at Indian Trails Middle School has a cell phone.


“How about a flip phone?” I ask Jackson. “That way you can call home, but you don’t get distracted by games?”

“If I get a flip phone,” Jackson says, pausing for emphasis, “I’ll be the most made-fun-of kid at school.”

First, the used pencils get vetoed. Then the too-big shoes and the 20-cent folders. Then the flip phone.

Do I have zero say in how my money is spent around here?!?

We ordered a smart phone. Then the twist of the dagger came a few days later, when Jackson started noticing more and more classmates who don’t have phones yet.

I’d like to meet those kids’ parents. They sound like smart people — people who have it together.

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