When I was a kid growing up in Michigan, my grandmother – usually a gregarious person – always had a way of putting a damper on the Fourth of July celebration.

No sooner had the rockets red glare from the local fireworks ended than she would utter her standard annual line: “Well, summer’s almost over.”

I loved Grandma, but I hated to hear those words, as my young mind was still thinking of long Michigan summer days filled with pick-up baseball, swims in above-ground pools and ice cream at Dairy Queen.

But as I grew up – and baseball, swimming and ice cream turned to caddying, reading and driver’s ed – the more I realized that Grandma was right. Time seemed to accelerate, and the blankets that were sat on, and then rolled and packed up after the fireworks on the Fourth of July, were not opened again until the J.L. Hudson Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Where did the time go between those summer and autumn landmarks? And how did it go so fast?

It was mostly spent getting ready for and going off to school. What did that mean? A bit of summer reading, an attempt at organizing and a whole lot of shopping. And if that was true during the relatively languid time and place of 1960s and 70s Midwest summers, imagine how it is today.

Actually, we don’t have to imagine; the numbers tell the story.

According to a 2004 National Retail Federation survey, college students and their parents make an annual back-to-school spend of about $25.7 billion. The breakdown: $7.5 billion on electronics, $8.8 billion on textbooks, $3.2 billion on clothing and accessories, $2.6 billion on dorm or apartment furnishings, $2.1 billion on school supplies and $1.5 billion on shoes.

You are probably making some back-to-school purchases yourself, and I encourage you to look at some of the offers available in the Deals and Discounts area of our Web site. For those of you who have young adults in your household going off to college, there are products from Campus Linens and Captio, among others, you might find of interest.

And for those of you who are still spending on behalf of younger persons at home, who will be attending middle, junior high or high school, there are products and services that might be of interest – or necessity – for you, too. Are you in the market for a SAT or ACT test prep course? Kaplan and Thomsen Peterson offer classroom and online test prep courses, respectively, and both at substantial dollar value discounts to College Parents of America members.

Back when my grandmother made her annual “summer is almost over” declaration, there were usually at least two months of summer to go, as schools in Michigan kept to a long-held tradition of starting the day after Labor Day. Now, of course, summer might be over for you in less than two weeks, or more likely in five or six. Only in those increasingly rare instances of a college with trimesters will your son or daughter actually have at least two months to go right now.

Whatever time you have left before the school bell rings, here’s wishing that you make the most of it, with time to work and time to play.

And, if you have some time to read, here are links to columns that I wrote and posted on our site earlier this month.

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