Almost as soon as our kids start bringing home math sheets and reading logs, they bring home order forms and collection envelopes for a magazine drive, a coupon book, or a wrapping paper catalog. Children (and parents) are supposed to sell as much as possible to make money for the school.
I wish I were a better saleswoman. This is an example of my best pitch: “You don’t want to buy any Girl Scout cookies, do you?” Yes, I’m commerce-challenged (hence yet another reason I need to be a frugal mama).
The other problem with school fundraisers is the school part. I love everything about it: from the classrooms (tiny desks filled with school supplies, the calendars and job charts, the smell of pencil shavings and crayons and old books) to chatting at drop-off with the parents and teachers, to the worksheets and homework organizers (I’ve always loved filling in forms). School touches both the child in me and that side that gets deep satisfaction from seeing everything in its place.
So when my daughter brought home a coupon book for local attractions and restaurants, which we were supposed to sell to friends and family, I was in a bind. Fundraiser: yucky. School: yummy.
In my mind I went over who I could sell these coupons books to. We just moved here, but I could surely rustle up some people. Then I remembered what happened last year. I wanted to help the PTA with the magazine drive so much that I delved into my address book and sent out emails to half the people I knew.
I think perhaps one person renewed a subscription, which would mean about $10 for the school. Was bothering my friends and family and possibly squandering a bit of good will worth it? I decided, no.
So I started to write a check for the $20 coupon book (I usually end up buying stuff myself to make up for my lack of entrepreneurial spirit, which highlights my lack of business sense even more), but then I thought — I really don’t want this coupon book.
Wondering why a frugal mama doesn’t love coupons? I’ve talked about why I think grocery coupons are a waste of time, and even though there are some high-value store coupons that are worth saving, the reason I didn’t want the restaurant and entertainment coupons is because I find they:
- keep the focus on spending
- are hard to keep track of, thus creating physical and mental clutter
- induce me to spend on things I didn’t naturally choose based on location, quality or charm
- are, frankly, a little embarrassing (especially when used to pay for a romantic dinner)
If I want money to go to the school, why don’t I just make a donation?
And that is what I did. Instead of $10 going to the school, all of my $50 went to the school. Before I would have felt guilty about not selling more or buying more, and annoyed that I had spent my money on something I didn’t really want or need.
This time I felt a tiny bit bad because I didn’t participate on the PTA’s terms, but then I realized it was a win-win: they got more money from me than they would have if I had just bought one coupon book for myself, and I got to support my children’s school in a way that felt right to me. In the end, the school got needed funds, and I got peace of mind.
Am I the only one with this dilemma? Please tell me no in the comments section below.