It's that time of year again.
Not Christmas, although the holiday shopping season is closer than you think.
No, it's back to school time across the country.
For kids lamenting the end of summer and the return to the land of homework, tests, research and rules, back to school shopping signals the beginning of the end.
For parents, it can be nearly as stressful as shopping for Christmas. Depending on your child's age, class schedule and believed social standing, it can also be just as expensive.
The phrase 'dress to impress' holds an entirely different meaning in the business world than it does in a school setting.
Right about the start of junior high the prevailing though, however incorrect, that image is everything begins to rear its ugly head.
The result, is preteens lobbying their parents to purchase the latest fashions and accessories for school. Some are successful. Some are not. But dressing to impress in the fashion-conscious world of the junior high age group can be a daunting and expensive task.
Parents of elementary school kids, as well as some high school kids, have it much easier. The former aren't quite old enough to start judging their peers on an aesthetic level while more and more high school kids have moved beyond the superficial by the time they hit 9th and 10th grade.
But that three year period between 6th and 8th grade can be downright painful on the old wallet.
Retail outlets and clothing stores know this and try to cater to this fashion frenzy by featuring the latest fashions on the front covers of their weekly ads found in the local newspaper.
The new fall fashions will be featured. Some will be on-sale, which draws the parents in to the stores. But it is there the cerebral battle truly begins.
Kids, whose main concern is dressing their best to impress their friends, aren't concerned with sales or price tags. Parents on the other hand, while concerned with their kids' fashion well-being, have other issues to consider. So while the heart may be saying yes, the head, and bank account, may be waving the white flag.
It's a struggle few parents ever escape.
Thankfully, supply shopping, in theory, is an easier task than clothes shopping.
Parents can thank teachers for that.
These days, teachers mail home to parents a detailed breakdown of any and all school supplies their children should need throughout the school year.
It takes the guessing game out of supply shopping.
If it's not on the list, it doesn't get tossed into the cart.
But with dwindling school budgets, teachers can only afford so much out of their own pockets.
That's why now, along with pencils, pens, crayons, paper, folders, etc., other items have been making their way on to the back-to-school shopping lists.
Take one local elementary-level list from across the boarder in West Virginia.
In addition to basic supplies, parents need to purchase boxes of tissues, disinfectant wipes, paper towels, hand sanitizer and other assorted items.
Again, this is brought about by dwindling school budgets. Districts are having enough trouble trying to keep all their programs and teachers in place. They need to cut as many non-essential expenses as possible.
These are still needed supplies, however, and that cost is getting passed on.
Like with the clothes, ads featuring sales on school supplies will soon be permeating the Sunday paper. Parents would be wise to make a list of what they need before picking up the paper and taking note of what items are on sale and at what locations.
Like anything else, parents are looking to get the most bang for their back-to-school bucks. Thankfully, sale prices are never in short supply this time of year.
Hughes may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org