With summer days waning and school days approaching, you may be thinking less about vacation and more about getting the kids back to school. School supplies, new clothes, haircuts, textbooks, athletic fees, and recreational fees can add up to a bundle. But developing a back-to-school budget can help you plan for and manage expenses at the start of and throughout the school year.
Popular Community Bank wants to help you plan for your child’s back-to-school and ongoing school expenses.
According to the National Retail Federation, back-to-school expenses are typically about $700 for families with children in kindergarten through twelfth grade.1 Expenses can be higher for children in private school, of course, because they often include tuition, textbooks, and uniforms.
To stay on track with your child’s school expenses, create a comprehensive expense list that includes costs for:
- After-school programs
- Athletic apparel, equipment, and fees
- Clothing for school, including school uniforms
- Meals and snacks
- Medical and dental copays
- Mobile phone
- Private music and sports lessons
- Recreational fees
- School supplies
- Travel expenses
Although you may spend less than a planned amount on certain weeks, other weeks may yield unexpected expenses like class trips, gifts for classmates’ parties, or extra healthcare costs. If you stick closely with your budget overall, extra costs will likely average out to a reasonable amount over the course of the year.
Once you’ve completed a comprehensive expense list, break down the expenses by the week, month, and year. Keep a calendar handy and check the week ahead for reminders of upcoming expenses, including supplies, tuition, and fees, among others. Make a note of possible additional expenses to minimize unwanted financial surprises.
Track Your Spending
To understand where your back-to-school money goes each week, keep a record of how much you spend and what you spent it on. You’ll be surprised how quickly small amounts add up. For example, giving your child cash to eat from school vending machines or at the school cafeteria can add up to larger amounts than you planned. A record can help you quickly see and eliminate or adjust unnecessary costs.
Recycle School Supplies
One way to cut back-to-school costs is to go through closets and drawers to find forgotten supplies from the previous school year. You also can ask parents of children a year older than your child to pass down textbooks and other pre-owned school supplies. Because electronic devices, computers, notebooks, art supplies, and athletic equipment don’t usually wear out in just one school year, they often can be successfully used again.
If you have more than one child, keep in mind what you can recycle from your older to your younger child. If you’re younger child is going to receive hand-me-downs, be sure to present them with a positive attitude. For example, explain that saving on certain hand-me-down items will allow you to gather funds for something your younger child will eventually need. Recycling (or handing down items) with other goals in mind is great way to teach your child the value of trade-offs.
Shop With Coupons
When it’s time to make your child’s back-to-school purchases, use as many coupons as possible to lower your overall bill. Many stores and merchants offer online discounts and coupons that you can use when checking out online or print and take with you to the store. Local circular flyers also are likely to include savings coupons for back-to-school items. Clip them and keep them in your wallet to cash in at the register.
Shop Without Your Child to Stay Focused
Taking your child along when you shop can have some benefits, including getting him/her to make choices and understand the value of a dollar. But some parents may find it easier to avoid impulse purchases when they don’t have a kid pressuring them to buy unnecessary items. If you’d like your child to weigh in on back-to-school choices, shop online together and make a list before you visit the stores. In addition to having a definitive list of purchases, online shopping allows you to see and total prices before hitting the cash register.
Make Back-to-School Expenses the Foundation of Financial Literacy
At Popular Community Bank, we encourage you to use back-to-school budgets to teach your child how to wisely manage finances. Explain about comparison shopping for good deals, the difference between wants versus needs, and how saving now can result in a healthy nest egg for something important in the future, such as college tuition.
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National Retail Federation. Economy. Parents preparing their back-to-school budgets with caution. nrf.com/news/parents-preparing-their-back-school-budgets-caution. Accessed May 17, 2016.
The information mentioned in this article is for informational purposes only, is intended to provide general guidance and does not constitute legal or tax advice. Each person’s situation is unique and may materially differ from the information provided herein. You should seek the advice of a financial professional, tax consultant and/or legal counsel to address your specific needs before any financial or other commitments regarding the issues related to your situation are made. Banco Popular North America does not make any representations or warranties as to the content contained herein and disclaims any and all liability resulting from any use of or reliance on such content.
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