Surviving school book orders

Balancing The
Book Frenzy

Let's face it. The book order forms that get sent home with kids are absolutely irresistible to the book lover. Logically, we know we can't have all the books ... but that doesn't stop us from considering it, does it? Here's how to get the most from the book order form without breaking the bank.

Mom and Son Reading
In elementary school, it was always the highlight of the month when the book order form was passed out. Inevitably it was filled with an array of fiction and nonfiction. I would greedily read the descriptions, marking off the books that sounded good. There were so many possibilities of good reading to absorb from the flier. When I'd checked out every book, imagined every possibility, I would make a list of the books I really wanted.

These days, not much has changed. When my preschool-aged son gets his book order form, I still leaf through with anticipation. And I still imagine the possibilities of the stories. Only, these days it's all in the context of 'what can this do for my son?' And, also, 'do I really want to read this at night?'

Here's how I make sure not to go book order crazy:

Step 1: Set a budget

If you want to be sure that you are only ordering what you really want and need for your child, start by setting a budget. When you have a hard and fast budget to stick to, you will find it easier to say no to books that aren't really necessities or something your child will really enjoy.

For me, the budgeting is nothing new. It's much like when I was a child. See, I was a pretty smart child that understood that while I wanted $20 or $30 of books, I wasn't going to get them. But $15? Perhaps. $10? Absolutely. That was a budget my mom would okay.

Since I am the mom now, and things are a little more pricey, I stick to a $15 budget.

Step 2: Check the bargain books first

You can pick up some great reads that only cost $1 or $2 in the book order. For instance, the first order form for my son's class this year included Corduroy for just $1. That's a great children's book, perfect for young minds (of course we already have three copies since I love it, so that didn't make the cut).
We did however get an interesting frog book for $1, and my son loves frogs.

Also look at the packages offered. They often come at a deep discount, leaving books at $2 or less.

Step 3: Mix it up

My son and I love reading fiction books like Goodnight Moon and anything by Dr. Seuss, but there is a whole world of nonfiction out there that can invigorate the mind too. When considering your order, be sure to mix together selections that will teach important concepts (like sharing) or subjects (like science) alongside fun fiction books.

No matter what the subject-matter, the most important thing is choosing books that your child is interested in. Why? Because when you have something that your child wants to read, they are more likely to take reading beyond the bedtime book routing.

Step 4: Whittle down the list

Remember that budget you set in Step 1? Well, here's where it really comes into play. Once you've gone through everything and chosen the books that you think will work for you and your child, reread the descriptions and cross off the ones that you don't need or want as much.

When you are sure that you have it down, total the list. If it meets your budget, do not pass Go, do not collect $200, just order. If it doesn't pare down one more time.

You will survive

Believe it or not, this is the same process I used as a child. I sure hope my kids pick up on my unusual book order habits and eventually do all the choosing and whittling for me.In the meantime, I am comfortable with my $15 budget. And yes, I am definitely sticking to it.

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