Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Why I've Never Bought School Pictures... And I Never Will

My oldest daughter brought home a school picture order form on Friday, which I immediately tossed in the garbage without looking at it.

To make sense of this post, you need to know that I'm frugal. Really frugal. I've worn shoes until they literally disintegrated and I found myself walking down the street barefoot. I'll put items in my cart at the dollar store and then end up putting them back because we don't really need them. At the dollar store.

So please understand that if you send my child home with an order form where the "Most Popular" package costs $82.10, I will swiftly burn it and not look back.
School portrait packages are ridiculously overpriced – and they’re not even great pictures! This mom of 6 saves hundreds of dollars every year with this easy money-saving trick. And she still has current, professional-looking pictures of all of her kids on the walls! #money #saving #tip #hack #schoolpictures
School portrait packages are ridiculously overpriced – and they’re not even great pictures! This mom of 6 saves hundreds of dollars every year with this easy money-saving trick. And she still has current, professional-looking pictures of all of her kids on the walls! #money #saving #tip #hack #schoolpictures

School portrait packages are ridiculously overpriced – and they’re not even great pictures! This mom of 6 saves hundreds of dollars every year with this easy money-saving trick. And she still has current, professional-looking pictures of all of her kids on the walls! #money #saving #tip #hack #schoolpictures


I love pictures of my kids. But school pictures, let's face it, are only slightly prettier to look at than mug shots.

The kids have usually got weird hair from running around at recess or a smudge of jelly on their lip left over from lunch, or a funky expression on their face. The pose is exactly the same, year after year.

And if you've got more than one child (in my case I have 6!) to buy pictures for, good luck to you and the second mortgage you'll be taking out to pay for them.

So I came up with a great money-saving solution that allows me to have current photos of my kids on the walls and not overpay.

Every year on the kids' birthdays, I make an appointment at a department store photo studio and get their pictures done there. I use J.C. Penney, but there are also studios at Sears, Target, and Walmart.

Once you sign up on their mailing list, they'll regularly send you coupons several times per year. I come home with a boatload of prints for under $40 every time, because I never go without a coupon. (The important part here is that you read the fine print and don't allow yourself to get pressured into buying fancy photo enhancement options or overpriced packages that aren't covered by the coupon.)

I love the results: I can get a variety of poses and if I like, a few shots of the kids together. One year, my daughter even brought her violin for pictures.

They're like pictures I would take at home, only better because the cameras are nicer than my phone and the photo studio doesn't have balled-up socks and abandoned bowls of raisins in the background.

If you like shelling out $296.50 for forty-eight identical head shots before you've even seen what they look like, then more power to you. Buy the school pictures. I'm not going to tell you how to live your life.

It's nothing personal; I just don't have a need for a dozen copies of identical mug shots of my daughter looking like, well, like she's tired of waiting in line behind 50 other kids for her turn all morning.

Our walls are hung with professional portraits of the kids, except with this money-saving alternative the pictures in my frames are better quality and cost a fraction of the "Best Value" packages the school tries to hawk to me every year.

So it's safe to say I will never buy school portraits, and I'm 100% okay with that.

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8 comments:

Rachel said...

hahaha! I see a perk of being homeschooled as that not a single "school photo" exists of me. I don't think I've ever seen one that actually looked nice...they just look weird. And they're that expensive?

Jenny said...

I had to get retakes every year until I was a sophomore in high school. I always hated them. I don't know if I'll buy them or not but I can take a great picture if my kids and buy it for way cheaper.

Jennifer Humphries said...

I was going to write about this, but you stated it pretty clearly. I have received back some school picture samples I couldn't even believe that the photographer wasn't drunk when they took them or had their eyes closed when they told my child to smile, because the pictures were so terrible!

PurpleSlob InRecovery said...

This is so true!! Good for you! I'm learning to be more frugal, but I did bust out school pix money once of twice. Ok, a lot. I was not a photographer! Blogging has made me try!
Dollar store, haha!

Sara Murray said...

I have to admit, I have bought them... but they are really not the best photos of my kids, by far... I need to be stronger and say no :)

Lynne at The Sweet Midlife said...

We are doing preschool for the first time this year and I am dubious about picture day. We will see how much they want. But you are right: those pictures are generally AWFUL. I stand in solidarity with you.

Jenny Evans said...

It's harder if your school actually sends home prints regardless of whether you've bought them (I didn't know some schools did this) and your cute little child is hugging the envelope to his/her chest saying, "Do you want to keep my pictures, Mommy?"

Jenny Evans said...

The portrait company they brought in to my daughter's preschool was actually really good, they were like a portrait studio in that they did all kinds of cute poses and even gave everybody a free tote bag with a photo collage on it! I didn't look at the cost because at the time we were in grad school living off of Phillip's research stipend and didn't even have money to buy nice toilet paper. So.