Back to School Budget Tips for Parents – A Financial Guide
It’s back to school time!
While this can be a stressful and emotional time for both parents and children, it can also be a difficult time for your wallet.
Back to school time can end up costing a lot of money, especially if you don’t put together a budget and stick to it.
Here are a few tips for back-to-school budgeting that will help you keep spending in control, no matter what age your children are.
How to budget…
… when kids are going away for college
College is expensive, but you probably already know that after paying for tuition and housing. However, once those expenses are paid, you still have several other costs as well. These expenses include student fees, supplies, textbooks, computers, transportation, clothing, entertainment, general living expenses (groceries, etc.), health care and more. So how do you afford all of these items?
One of the first things you can do is sit down with your child and take stock of what he or she already has and what is needed. You might not need to buy a new computer or a completely new wardrobe, depending on what your child already has. Once you’ve determined what your child actually needs, price out the total. Include a column for fixed expenses (housing, insurance, Internet access, etc.) and for variable expenses (food, entertainment, school supplies, books, etc.) When it comes to buying textbooks, see if your child can find used books instead of new ones. Buying books online or from a used bookstore can save a lot of money.
You’ll also want to price out any monthly expenses such as Internet or groceries. It’s important that you go through this process with your child. He or she will need to know how much money you are going to provide for expenses in order to budget for himself or herself.
If your child is paying for some or all of his or her own expenses, you’ll still need to help him or her budget. You don’t want to see all of the money your child earned over the summer disappear on pizza nights and cell phone accessories, for example.
You’ll also want to teach your child to be responsible with credit cards. Unfortunately, a lot of students run up a great deal of credit card debt because they don’t understand exactly how credit cards work. This debt can be difficult to get out from.
… when kids are going to high school
High school doesn’t cost as much as college, but it is still expensive. In fact, a recent survey by the National Retail Federation found that the average family with kids in elementary or high school can expect to spend $669.28 on back-to-school shopping.
High school students will likely want to do their back-to-school shopping themselves. This means that you will need to sit down with your child and realistically think about what he or she needs and how much it will cost. If the total is more than you are willing to spend, let your child know that they’ve gone over budget and work with them to adjust their plans to fit the amount that you are willing to pay. Let your child know that while some items are nice to have, they might not fit into your budget. You may want to give you child an option of picking up a part-time job to pay for these extra items.
Going through and making a budget with your child is an important way to teach him or her about money management.
… when kids are going to middle school
Many of the same ideas apply to children in middle school. Older children may want to shop for themselves, but you’ll probably be doing the shopping for younger children.
To help lower costs, you may want to wait until after school has started to complete your shopping. While you can buy some items during “back-to-school time,” waiting until your child has been in school for a little while before making most purchases can save you a lot of money. Not only will you be able to take advantage of sales, but you’ll also have a better idea of what your child actually needs.
When you’re shopping, look at discount stores, thrift stores and the possibility of buying in bulk. And don’t underestimate the power of coupons!
… when kids are going to school for the first time
Back-to-school shopping for the first time can be overwhelming. It’s important not to get swept up in the marketing and buy items that your child doesn’t actually need. Before you do any shopping, set a budget based on your expectations. Then, write down every item you believe that your child needs. You can speak to teachers or other parents to get a better idea of what is actually needed.
Price out all of the items before you go shopping. If you’ve gone over your budget, see if you can cut out some items or replace them with cheaper items in order to keep costs down.
Another good tip is to co-operate with friends who also have children. Not only can they give you advice as to what the average child needs, but they may even be able to lend, give or sell you some items to help you stay under budget.
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