By Paula Wethington / Monroe on a Budget columnist and blogger for The Monroe Evening News in Monroe, Mich.

The cost of high school keepsakes such as studio photos, class rings and varsity jackets usually results in sticker shock on behalf of parents, followed up by “Who needs all that stuff anyway?”

I don’t think one should dismiss traditional high school keepsakes, even if you are surprised at the cost. The discussion to have as a family is which memorabilia your student is actually interested in, and then how to make it happen.

During my daughter’s years at Monroe High School (she was in the class of 2007), our family budgets were very tight. But my daughter still received a varsity jacket and class ring. She went to her prom and was a date to someone else’s senior prom. She has all yearbooks from all four years, and I made scrapbooks about her achievements in Girl Scouts.

One of the ways we handled the cost was scheduling the purchase of the most expensive items into different years. That’s why my daughter received her class ring during her freshman year and her varsity jacket her sophomore year.

karolyncoatYes, I know high school jackets and rings are put away after graduation. But students deserve to get as much enjoyment out of them as possible. I would buy those pieces early, if your teens want them.

High school jackets are also are a perfect place to put the pins, medals and letters that may start arriving during freshman year. My daughter didn’t play sports, but she earned quite a collection of such things from choir, yearbook and academic achievements. (Yes – this photo is my daughter’s varsity jacket!)

Another reason not to wait until senior year for the jacket and ring is that graduation time has a lot of unique expenses such as a cap and gown, announcements and a party. And if your student attends only one formal dance, it will most likely be senior prom.

We didn’t buy everything that was offered as high school memorabilia. We have no Who’s Who book. We didn’t buy a graduation T-shirt or an autograph stuffed animal. My only “team spirit” purchase as a parent was a red and white scarf.

We also were were selective about photo package purchases. During her senior year, I asked our relatives which photos they really wanted. While everyone enjoyed looking at the proofs or online galleries, most chose only one print.

Even we, as her parents, selected only one photo from that year to set into a beautiful frame.

But because we were selective with our purchases, we could afford the keepsakes my daughter really wanted.

This Monroe on a Budget column is in the March 5 edition of in The Monroe Evening News.

This piece is also among my contributions to the Women’s Money Week 2013 campaign, and was picked as a “featured post” in the “family and money” category. You’ll find daily discussions about women’s issues and financial affairs Monday March 4 through Friday March 8 at the Women’s Money Week web site.

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