It's amazing how much it costs to get an education.
I'm not talking about college. I'm talking about fourth grade and junior high school.
My wife, Joni, has been on a mission in recent days: Shopping for all the back-to-school supplies our daughters need.
From what I can tell, not even the Pentagon could handle the logistics.
Getting a good education involves more than good study habits. It also involves, in Bailey's case, a super pink backpack.
Clothes are particularly important. Becca, our 13-year-old, had to have her share of stylish attire. It would never do to socialize in clothes that just weren't cool socially, Becca would tell you.
Bailey, 9, also has opinions about fashion.
And when it comes to shopping at the mall or any other retail outlet, both girls seem right at home.
This year I stayed on the sidelines when it came to back-to-school shopping. Stepping into a shopping mall with my family can be a three-hour adventure. There's no such thing as quick shopping.
With the girls, shopping involves a lot of browsing. It also involves color commentary.
There's a whole lot of discussion about whether a blue is too blue or maybe too much like sea-foam green.
As a dad and husband, I've learned that such shopping is out of my league.
For one thing, as with most guys I can detect only a handful of primary colors. This makes it impossible for us to discern just why it takes moms and daughters so long to decide between two almost identical articles of clothing.
In such cases, it's best to park yourself on a mall bench and just wait. Sooner or later, your family will leave the store.
Of course, guys might want to do their own shopping and buy some duct tape.
This, at least, has the possibility of being a good investment.
In Arkansas, a couple recently earned $2,500 in college scholarships after donning formal wear made from duct tape.
The contest drew more than 260 couples from 44 states and Canada.
The girl wore a two-piece prom dress of duct tape. The boy had on a duct-tape tuxedo. Presumably, the party goers were stuck on each other.
According to the Associated Press, it took 25 rolls of duct tape and more than four weeks of work to create the formal wear. Personally, it seems a misnomer to refer to any duct-tape outfit as formal wear.
Missouri recently held its sales-tax holiday where shoppers could purchase back-to-school supplies and clothes without paying state sales tax and in some cases even local sales tax.
But apparently duct tape doesn't count as back-to-school merchandise.
Still, if you can wear it to a prom, it should qualify for tax-free status.
On top of that, duct tape clearly is a clothing essential. When your daughter starts wearing those threadbare jeans that teenagers love, you can always add a little duct tape to keep the pants from becoming too revealing.
With the new school year right around the corner, Joni assures me we're now stocked with all the clothes and supplies the girls will need.
That's good. Because no matter the equation, the numbers keep adding up.
Mark Bliss is a staff writer for the Southeast Missourian.