If the thought of budgeting for school has your stomach in knots, read on for simple money-saving advice.
Back to school is a busy time. Your son or daughter may be a post-secondary student moving away from home for the first time. Maybe you’re gearing up for the daily grind, budgeting for school – organizing your children for another busy year. It can be a challenge to manage your household and job – and the juggling act gets even more challenging while getting your kids off to school every morning.
Back to school is the season of shopping for new clothing and supplies. Getting back into the routine of making lunches and rising early to get everyone where they need to be on time again is part of the equation. Also part of the equation – school expenses you didn’t have all summer. Do you budget year-round for field trip expenses so that you’ve got a head start for September? Budgeting for school and irregular expenses might have been the last thing on your mind this summer. If you’ve got debt, you may have been focused on surviving your day-to-day money troubles instead of thinking about school trips. It’s ok if things are tight right now, you can always make adjustments and changes for next year!
You may be recovering from a vacation. Vacation expenses can put a dent in your budget. If you have young children, the cost of hiring a daycare provider during summer while you went to work may have also set you back. If a debt problem is having an impact on your cash flow, now is the time to find a solution and get back on track.
Tighten up your budget now that everyone is back to school
Even small financial changes at the beginning of the school year can become bigger advantages for you and/or your family as the year goes on. If you’re not on a strict budget, the money trouble you’ve been experiencing can get worse as new school-related expenses pile up in addition to your regular bills.
One key change that will help you build “spending habit” awareness and avoid ongoing financial difficulty, is to build a great budget that you can stick to.
Working school trip expenses into your budget all year can really help. Ask yourself how much did school trips cost last year? Add them up and use that number to estimate what the cost will be this year. If this is your first year with kids in school, ask other parents for advice. What do they typically spend on field trips each year? Remember to include a little spending money for the kids. Do your kids like to bring home souvenirs from their excursions? Will they need to buy food where they are going?
Take the total for the year and divide it by 12 months – this is how much you should save every month. Set a minimum budget for field trip savings that you will put aside on a regular basis and stick to it!
Food is an ongoing expense that cannot be avoided, no matter what kind of debt problem or money troubles you may be dealing with. Even post-secondary students may need your support to cover meals, meal plans, and/or lunches if your student is lucky enough to be able to live at home during the school year. Get your family members used to taking a bag lunch and cooking meals at home – dining out should not be part of your every day food budget.
Preparing meals at home is almost always healthier and cheaper than eating out and there are lots of social media influencers posting new recipes every day. Your family could use what you find online as “lunch inspiration” to make it a fun activity.
As part of your new practice of budgeting for school, take inventory of the school supplies your kids already have. Try not to buy new every year. The less you need to replace, the less money you need to set aside for this part of your budget. Look for opportunities to buy the same item for less (buy knockoff when you can). Once you’ve determined what supplies your kids actually do need you to buy, find the cheapest way to buy them!
Look into carpooling if your school doesn’t provide transportation for your children. If you only have to drive once a week, you’re saving a fifth of what you could be spending on gas, time and maintenance of your vehicle. Post-secondary students living at home and traveling to university or college can look into student bus passes for public transit. You can also encourage them to work a part-time job to assist with car insurance and gasoline so they can drive themselves whenever you can’t. If walking to school is an option, it is free – and better for the environment.
A new wardrobe on the first day back to school is a confidence booster for any kid. Many young people look forward to getting something new in the fall. Sometimes, it’s a necessity as your children grow out of what they fit into last year. Shopping for clothes doesn’t have to break the bank. Budgeting for school shopping should include any wardrobe upgrades or uniforms.
First, set a budget – how much can you afford to spend? Second, talk to your kids about thrift shop shopping. Second hand stores are a great way to find nearly-new items while also being eco-friendly. If new clothing is required (example undergarments, or you cannot find what you need in your son/daughter’s size) shop for discounts. Don’t pay extra just to get a name brand. Explain to your kids that you’ve got a budget to stick to. Include them, let them help decide how to spend your budget. Shopping for clothing can be an educational experience. Teach your kids how to budget by including them in the conversation.
Post-Secondary Students, OSAP and Money Troubles with Tuition
If you live in Ontario and have post-secondary students in your family, the upcoming school year may be a struggle. The Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) has received many cuts under the current provincial government. Students who were depending on student loans will likely be coming up short for the Fall 2019 and Winter 2020 sessions of college and/or university. Budgeting for school will become very important.
Of course, as a parent, you want to help your son or daughter with tuition. If you have money troubles it can be difficult to spare the extra money. If you’re not in a position to financially assist your kids when they go back to school, get help. Get your personal finances into better shape so that you can help fund your children’s educational needs. A Consumer Proposal or a Bankruptcy may be able to help you free up extra money. Speak with a Licensed Insolvency Trustee and learn how to reduce your interest payments and clear up your debt problem. You owe it to yourself to make budgeting for school a breeze!