Dear Snarky – Help Me Say No to the Back-to-School $ Shakedown

Dear Snarky,dear_snarky_logo-1

I’m going through a divorce and money is really, really tight. This has me dreading school starting because as soon as I walk through the door with my kids everyone has their hand out from the PTO to room moms asking for money for school improvements, teacher gift and classroom parties. I need your advice on how to nicely, but firmly say no without sounding pathetic or feeling embarrassed.

Signed, On A Strict Budget

Dear Budget,

You came to the right person for advice. Back in the day I bounced a $10 check to my daughter’s elementary school PTO. Totally not my fault mind you. It was an accounting error.  😉 Now back to you.

My advice is to not be afraid of no. No is not a four letter word. You can use it often and without regret. As in “No, I can’t contribute this year, but I’d be happy to volunteer in the classroom.”

Or “No thank you, I’ve already scheduled my donation to the school.” And you’re not fibbing because your donation could be chaperoning a field trip.

Don’t even feel like you have to follow your no with a “I’m sorry”.


Your basic family needs come before extras like school parties and you have nothing to be ashamed of or to feel guilty about. Now go out there and make it a great first day of school.

*If you have a question for – Dear Snarky – 21st Century Advice With an Attitude – write me at or send me a private message on my Snarky FB page.



7 thoughts on “Dear Snarky – Help Me Say No to the Back-to-School $ Shakedown

  1. Mrs. Thompson says:

    As a retired teacher this is great advice! We don’t need a teacher gift. We need children well rested and ready to start the day with parents who work as educational partners.

  2. Normal mom says:

    I would also suggest that this mom look for help at her district if she needs it. If you qualify for free/Reduced lunch, school fees might be reduced or eliminated. Don’t be afraid/ashamed to ask for this. It is there to help folks going through tough times.

  3. Poor Parent says:

    I feel for the letter writer. When I was going through a divorce my (ex) husband hid all of our money and I was barely surviving with three kids. Take Normal Mom’s advice and don’t be ashamed to get help. I did just that for the four months it took a judge to tell my ex to give me some child support and to get our finances unraveled.

  4. Current Teacher says:

    As a current teacher, I agree with retired teacher. No teacher gifts necessary! Well-rested students and parents who work with me are the best gifts of all.

  5. KAMi says:

    I ran across this when I googled “why do school fundraisers feel like a shakedown”. LOL For us, it’s not a financial issue but an issue of principal. If you need money for an event or activity, ask for it. I’ll write you a check for $50 and not think a thing of it. It’s the vague fundraising that puts me over the edge. Our school currently is having a walk-a-thon. All the kids walk the same time/ distance but they want you to pledge money regardless. Even if you don’t pledge, you still have to walk. We have no family in this area and all the neighbors already have kids in the school so guess who has to pony up? Further, they have prize gift cards for 3 top pledges, plus tee shirts for any pledge. So automatically there is $250 plus tee money for 800 students.

    • snarkyinthesuburbs says:

      School fundraising has gotten out of control! It ticks me off and I think it’s total B.S. when they up the ante with the kids by doing things like most pledges get lunch out with the principal etc. The only way for it to stop is for more parents to just say no.

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