Have you ever noticed how sticking to your convictions, whatever they are, can be difficult? Especially in the face of peer pressure. When everyone else is doing something it can be really hard to be the one who doesn’t.
There are a lot of things in frugality that are like that. You know what I mean-that feeling that “everyone else” is eating out, buying new cars, or clothes or whatever. . .
But many of those things are internal struggles, you feeling awkward or resentful because your decision goes against the norms of our society. You know it, and you feel it-but does anyone else? Do your friends even NOTICE that you haven’t bought new clothes in a while? Probably not. So it’s a private sort of struggle without overt peer pressure.
Every once in a while you do come to a place where you have to make a somewhat public stand. One of those areas for me is school fundraisers (& scouts & sports teams & dance studio etc etc etc).
Buddy (5) and Princess (7) came home with their “Gertrude Hawke” chocolate selling folders this week. I hate, absolutely hate, these kind of fundraisers for 3 reasons.
#1-A 5 & 7 year old aren’t really going to sell anything. Can you imagine them trooping door to door? How unsafe would that be? No, it is Mom & Dad who wind up doing the selling. I resent that.
#2-99% of the time it is overpriced stuff that no one needs. So what happens? You ask your friends, family and co-workers to buy this overprice stuff that they don’t need, then when they come around with the flier full of overpriced crud that their kid is selling you feel obligated to buy from them as well. Remember my philosophy-buying stuff you don’t want or need is not frugal!!
#3-If I buy a $12 piece of junk I don’t need from these sales, the school doesn’t get $12. They only get a small percentage of the $12.
So what to do. I’ll tell you what.
Don’t do it.
That’s all. Just don’t.
And you know what? It makes me uncomfortable. Each year I feel somewhat embarrassed and guilty that I don’t. Every year when these things come home, I write a note in to the teacher telling them that I do not allow my children to participate in these types of sales, but that I will be happy to give a direct donation to the school. I send along $20 with the note. That’s it. Sounds easy-but is more difficult than you think. . . after all, this is a small town. Are the teachers all talking about me in the breakroom?
But after taking that one uncomfortable first step in all good conscience for the rest of the year I can “just say no” anytime anyone tries to sell me stuff. After all, it isn’t like they shelled out money for my kid.
Well, except for girl scout cookies. Even though those are overpriced I can’t resist a box or two of Samoas each year. Mmmm.
To make all of this even harder, the schools get the kids all jazzed up about the prizes that they can win based on the amount that they sell. So there is the added mommy guilt that maybe my kids are going to feel upset and embarrassed about not participating and “winning”. I’m lucky because our school system does not give those prizes out at school-they are just packed into the boxes full of product when the kids bring them home.
Last year I even promised Princess that I’d bring her to the Dollar Store and she could pick out whatever she wanted when everyone else got their prize (hey, she’s 6 and it matters at that age). Lucky for me she forgot about it and never asked for her “prize”. I still feel that a single dollar spent for her not to feel neglected is worth it to feel morally justified in telling kids all year long “no” when they come round for fundraisers.
And to be very fair here, the very first year I sent in such a note (Princess’s kindergarten year) the principle of the primary school took the time to call and assure me that she totally understood why I was not participating and to explain the prize policy to me. (I had asked about it in my note) I thought that was very thoughtful and classy.
A few last comments.
1-I don’t want you to think that I don’t support my school system. I am happy to participate in any school fundraiser that does not included selling “product” from a company. I bake for bake sales, support the annual craft fair & the booths at the big town fair etc. I give cans constantly to the steady stream of high school sports folks who ring my bell on Saturday mornings (we live on a main street) and get my car washed in the spring multiple times. I also have some interesting fundraising ideas that I will bring up and help implement once I am no longer on the board at my church (hey-there are only so many hours in the day).
2-This particular fundraiser goes to the arts in education program at our school. We have a fabulous program where really authors of popular childrens books come in and talk to the kids and read their books, and each year there is an artist who comes in several times throughout the year and works with the various classes etc. . . like I said, fabulous-but “extra”. Why am I being asked to sell over priced crap to support this, and yet being asked to provide tissues, crayons & hand sanitizer for my child’s classroom?
So, what kind of fundraising does your school do? Do you participate or not?