Are School Yearbooks a Waste Of Money?

school yearbooks, school expenses, school yearbook advice

Dad, can I get a yearbook?, asked my son.

I thought back to when I was a teenager. Buying yearbook was very little about the pictures that were inside, and more about getting your friends to sign it. It was a kind of status symbol to fill up as much of the empty space as possible with the signatures and well wishes of your classmates. It also gave a shy kid like myself an excuse to talk to certain members of the opposite gender. It is his last year of middle school, and he hadn’t gotten a yearbook for a few years, so I agreed.

Then I found out it cost $30.

I realize it has been just a few years, but that’s triple the cost from when I was in middle school.

I understood why he wanted one, but I also know that his interest in the yearbook would last just the few short weeks until the end of the school year. Once summer arrived the yearbook would be placed in a dresser drawer, never (or rarely) to see the light of day again. So I upped the stakes a bit to see how important it was to him.

I asked him to pay half. He didn’t even flinch before agreeing.

The next day he brought home his 70 page, hard cover yearbook. He’s been taking it to school every day, collecting signatures and memories from his friends on the inside both covers. My opinion on the yearbook softened for just a minute as I dug my 8th grade yearbook out from my closet. I read two messages before I made up my mind for good.

What a waste of money.

Signatures and messages that held so much significance then, meant nothing now. I hadn’t talked to some of the people since the day they signed that yearbook. Yet we’re all conditioned to believe that the school year is not complete without purchasing a remembrance capturing the “magic” of that year. Looking closer at my son’s book, fifteen pages were simply pictures of popular trends, songs, and news stories from the past year and had nothing to do with their school at all.

I was recently discussing the price of yearbooks with a neighbor who has a graduating senior and realized I should consider myself lucky.

Apparently he shelled out $76 for his son’s High School yearbook.

Do you think yearbooks are worth the cost? How much did your child’s yearbook cost this year?

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About the author

Brock Kernin


  • I have yearbooks from junior high, high school, and even college. I don’t regret the cost at all. Even the old ones from junior high I pull out now and then to compare what people looked like versus some of the pictures I see now (via Facebook) of those I know but haven’t stayed in close contact with. If it is something that he keeps and looks through for years to come, I would certainly disagree that it’s a waste.

  • I think it’s a lesson that would be good to point to in retrospect. I think for certain people it’s a fantastic way to remember and reminisce. I think that for $30 unnecessarily disrupting the experience of collecting signatures and thinking about the past and future of the people you care about in high school, there are worse things. As a rite of passage, it’s cheap. If you think about the cost of prom or a cap and gown, $30 is cheap. Personally though, I do agree, mine was a waste of money, but if you look at it from the perspective of, ‘This is intensely important to some people and participating with them may be worth it,’ you’re buying an experience, not an artifact.

  • As a former Yearbook Editor, I was appalled at the question of whether they were a waste of money. It`s too bad that your son`s book wasn`t a better reflection of his school. All the editors of our school`s book had to go to a training camp where we worked on a theme to ensure that the book reflected the school that year before we startedl. I think the long term value might not be seen for a long time, but I remember being fascinated with my parents`year books. I have also looked up names of people I`ve again met but couldn`t remember, and giggled at some of the things my best friend (from age 8, and still today, at age 35) wrote to each other then. I probably have a bit of soft spot, having worked on yearbooks for 3 years of my high school career, but I think many people find them to be one of the things they can`t part with over the years. I kinda wish I was at home now so I could thumb through mine again!

  • You shouldn’t be asking me, since I tried to skip my high school graduation, too. πŸ™‚

    My parents always bought them because one Should Have A Yearbook. I honestly don’t remember a lot of people in middle school who signed my yearbook. I don’t even remember some of the clubs I was in during high school, but there I am, smiling on the page. (Wait, what did that club even DO?) OTOH, there are some parts of the yearbook that jog fond memories.

    I think today, with the kind of public record we have with photos and social media, yearbooks are becoming less relevant, though. It probably also makes a difference whether you’re unpopular or popular. I was either the most popular unpopular kid or the most unpopular popular kid in school because I marched to the beat of my own drummer. πŸ™‚

  • $76 for a senior yearbook – I WISH it was that cheap by us. My son’s senior yearbook was $140 – and that’s before extra signature pages, a protective cover or any of the other “add-ons” they try to sell you. They don’t do yearbooks in our district in grade school or middle school though.

    Add in $1000 or so for prom, $400 (or more) for a class ring (I convinced him he didn’t need a “real” gold one), and senior trips – it’s an expensive year – it gets you ready for paying college tuition. πŸ™‚

  • @moneybeagle – Hmmm, good point. I may find MY yearbooks a waste of money – but mine is just one opinion. Just because I don’t get much value from mine, doesn’t mean he won’t either.

  • @MattW – Oooh, interesting perspective – the $30 is buying more than just just the book, but also the experience and camaraderie of participating in the signing ritual at the end of the year. I’m still not sold though. πŸ™‚

  • @Jenny – Skip your graduation? You have to share that story some time. πŸ™‚ You make a point I definitely didn’t think of…someone who was very involved and in bazillion things may find more value in the yearbook than someone who is pictured exactly once. I was a middle of the road guy – Track and the school newspaper. So, it’s not like my yearbook was overflowing with my presence.

  • @psychsarah – as a former yearbook editor your opinion may be a bit biased. LOL. Your comment certainly shows that people can have very different opinions, and find different levels of value from their yearbooks. Maybe I’m not that sentimental…..or it could be that I’m connected with almost everyone from my graduating class via facebook? Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  • @susan – $140 for a year book???? Wowzers, that’s completely nuts! Here’s a question for you….do you think that it’s partly a fundraiser? I mean, do you think that there’s a fair amount of profit for the school from these sales?

  • I deliberately let my GPA drop once I had my scholarships in the bag so I didn’t have to give a speech, because all I wanted to say is, “Good-bye and good riddance!” I had PEOPLE I liked in school, adults and students alike, but I hated the system. HATED it. I was going to skip graduation until my aunt announced that she was coming to watch it, and she’s not someone you can say “no” to about that kind of thing.

    I was the unjoiner joiner. I was in everything–speech, drama, honors society, mu alpha theta, Hispanic Youth Promoting Education (I’m not Hispanic, but I had friends there, so I joined to practice my Spanish with them), student council, track, cross country, the academic competition team, Spanish club, science club, and orchestra, plus the ones I forgot. And I actually contributed to all of them, too–placed at state in two different competitions, too, and that was in Texas, where it’s tough to place in state in anything–though I avoided being dragged into being an officer of most.

    But I did it mostly because I was bored and because there was a person or two in each club I liked and who talked me into joining–but at the same time, I was skipping all the mandatory pep rallies (and inexplicably getting away with it–it wasn’t like I made a big effort to hide the fact that I wasn’t going in!), I never went to a high school football game or any competition that I wasn’t a part of, I slept or read books in a lot of my classes, and I never did any homework that wasn’t mandatory.

    No one could figure out whether I was a goody-two-shoes or a rebel. πŸ˜›

  • @Jenny – Wow, Jenny – for someone that hated the system you participated in a TON of stuff. I can see why your classmates couldn’t figure you out. πŸ™‚ I didn’t hate the system, but I was happy to be done with it. The “real world” makes more sense to me, and looking back at my high school experience things that seemed so incredibly important at the time seem very insignificant now. Of course, try to tell your average high school student THAT and they’ll roll their eyes at you.

  • If you think it’s a waste of money then you aren’t really thinking about the experience you are helping to create for the students who actually build the yearbook. Take a small student body of about, 1100. A group of 15-30 kids are creating something that most likely over 4000 people will see, just within the first year. Yearbook class is not like other classes where not doing well will not matter to anyone else.

    In yearbook, it does, and they are helping to create and document the school experience, even if there are trends and songs page. That’s part of the year, that’s what happened then. It’s actually neat to go back and try to remember what was “COOL” back then. Without that in the yearbook, you wouldn’t remember shit. I doubt you do, stop lying to yourself. And if you’re so bitter that you don’t care about what happened in your youth, then that’s your choice.

    You basically treated your son as if it is you, deciding for him what he should value. That makes you an abusive parent.

    These kids probably have more people relying on them than you do in your job. Your measly 35 dollars helps support their growth for future endeavors as yearbook class is one of the few experiences that students can get in middle school that are on par with real world work experience.

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