Tip Content Provided By: Financial Finesse
The first day of school — ready or not, here it comes. For kids, it’s a mixture of excitement to reconnect with friends and dread of going back to homework and early bedtimes. For parents, I’d have to say it’s mostly just relief — either because they are no longer having to spend an arm and a leg on summer camp or because they cannot possibly handle another day of having their kids home all day, every day, needing to be entertained, fed, refereed and cleaned up after.
As we start to close in on the big day, it’s time to start firing up your budget for the following five things, as well as some ways to save on them:
- School supply list — This is the infamous list of school items that parents are asked to buy for their kids’ classroom and use throughout the school year. It can get pricey, so you have to get creative. Instead of buying pre-sharpened pencils, I get unsharpened pencils for much less and give my kids the “fun” project of sharpening them (it’s all about the spin). If I had a school supply item at home, I re-purposed it rather than buying new. Dollar stores and thrift stores are awesome places to find things like binders, document protectors, dividers and other supplies on the cheap. Shop early though, it is tough to find school supplies a week before school starts pretty much anywhere.
- School activities — I will admit, I am guilty of forgetting that some activities require payment in advance. Start budgeting for after-school activities and the ancillary costs right now. Is your kid in dance? Then you know to start hitting up consignment shops for jazz shoes, ballet shoes, and leotards. Is your kid in track? Plan ahead to shop during your state’s Sales Tax Holiday weekend, and start collecting store coupons for running shoes. Add the monthly cost of the school activity to your monthly spending plan so that it doesn’t take you by surprise.
- School lunch — If your kid buys lunch at school, estimate the average monthly cost and include this amount in your monthly budget as well. I normally make my kids lunches to save money. Last year, after a few weeks of half eaten lunches and a lot of complaining, I decided to get my girls involved. I had them go on Pinterest and give me five breakfast, lunch and snack items they like, with parameters – for example, snacks had to be a fruit or veggie and the lunch had to have some nutritional value. I also got them involved in making the lunches. I found they were less likely to complain and more likely to eat their lunch once they were involved in its creation. Standardizing breakfast, lunch and snacks became a time saver but also helped me find deals on items we use often. I also learned it was much cheaper to buy snack items in bulk and bag them myself rather than buy items pre-bagged, such as baby carrots or apple slices.
- School breaks — School may just be getting started, but start planning ahead now for days or weeks where you may need babysitting so you can line up affordable options. This includes holidays, teacher workdays, fall break, Thanksgiving break and Winter break. Since you may be used to spending more right now on summer camp anyway, consider diverting that money once school starts to a separate “school break” account so it doesn’t eat into your holiday spending budget. Don’t forget to reference this budget during open enrollment season at work so you can sign up for the Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account and use pre-tax dollars to pay these expenses.
- Clothing — My kids have the gift of destroying or losing clothing within the first few weeks of school so Istopped buying new items. I typically go to the consignment shops in the wealthiest part of town to shop for clothes – oftentimes with the tags still on them. To take it even further, I wait for a sales tax holiday – just make sure you wake up early to shop for school items, it’s a jungle out there.
Back to school is expensive, even if your kids go to public school. By planning ahead, you can prevent your wallet from screaming for mercy as you prepare and instead just enjoy having some peace and quiet at home again for a little bit.
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