On the last day of school, summer seems like it stretches out endlessly, with plenty of time to play, swim, and travel. But, as we all know, July comes and goes before you can even blink and then all of a sudden, it’s August with back-to-school shopping to do. Is it just me or do the summers seem to go faster as the kids get older? 

Harlow grew a few inches last year, so it’s time to update her school clothes. Especially in the pants department. I feel like all her leggings started hovering above her ankles by the end of last year. She gets very attached to her favorites (I’ve been trying to toss her very worn-out winter coat for over two years now) and does not like to purchase frivolously (her favorite thing to say while shopping is, “Is that really necessary?”) so I’ve gotta treat the subject of “new clothes” delicately.

When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to go back to school shopping to get new and exciting outfits, but Harlow usually shoots me down by saying her current stuff is “just fine.” Yes, it shows good values and makes me feel like I am raising her right, but sometimes I feel like her favorite leggings with the hole in the knee gets me the side eye on the streets of Tribeca. So, when I brought up the idea of back-to-school shopping, I decided to incorporate ways of giving back to our community as well. Harlow is nothing if not community minded.

I’ve been working with Spruce, a mobile banking platform built by H&R Block, which includes a debit card. The card links to the online app, making it super easy to set a budget and/or a savings goal, and then track your progress.

Spruce also has perks, like cash back rewards at select retailers1 and insight into your credit score2. Most people probably set a savings goal for something like a vacation or a new laptop, but I decided to make our goal a charitable contribution. I told Harlow that if we went shopping, we could use all of the cash back rewards to help fund a teacher’s classroom wish list. She liked this idea and was immediately on board.

We sat down together to determine our back-to-school budget, which not only helped her feel more in control of the shopping experience, it helped me set some spending parameters. I have a bad habit of throwing my shopping list out the window and buying more than we need when I walk into certain stores (I think you guys know what store I’m talking about). Probably most parents have the reverse conversation, trying to reign their kids’ spending in. Whereas for Harlow, setting a budget freed her up to make decisions within guidelines, without being overly worried about each purchase. Then we set a savings goal to fund a specific teacher’s wish list and I showed Harlow all the retailers that offered cash back rewards, so they got preference when we did our shopping. We followed our purchases in-app to make sure we were staying within budget (both during online and in-person shopping), and tracked our cash back rewards (transferring them to the savings account) so she could see us get closer and closer to our goal.

All in all, it was a very successful venture– we ended up finding some super cute clothes, crossed off all the items on Harlow’s school supply list, and with the cash back, got to help a teacher start their school year off with all the right supplies as well. I told Harlow how much she earned toward the wish list and ended up fulfilling the rest of the list myself.

At the end of the day, Spruce gave us both a much-needed lesson in money management.

This post was sponsored by Spruce but all thoughts and opinions are my own. If you’d like to download Spruce, click here.


Spruce is a financial technology platform built by H&R Block, which is not a bank. Banking products provided by MetaBank®, N.A., Member FDIC.

1 Spruce Rewards are powered by Dosh. Cash back offers and amounts may vary by user, merchant location and offer period. Check the Spruce app for offer availability. Cash back earned by qualifying purchases will be deposited in your Spruce Savings Account. See Spruce Rewards powered by Dosh Terms for details.        

2 Credit score is FICO® Score 8 based on Experian data. Your lender or insurer may use a different FICO Score than FICO Score 8, or another type of credit score altogether. FICO® is a trademark of Fair Isaac Corporation. This is a separate service from your Spruce bank accounts, provided by MetaBank®, N.A. This product does not report to credit reporting agencies.