The ABCs of back-to-school budgeting
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t’s natural to pack all you can into those few precious summer months, but inevitably they’re gone before you know it. As summer vacations, sleepovers and outdoor grilling come to a close, it’s time to start thinking about going back to school.
You may be working to pay off summer vacation bills when you realize you need to budget and pay for your child’s school supplies, clothing and other related school expenses.
In a recent survey conducted by Coinstar, about half of U.S. parents with kids between ages five and 18 believe school expenses are increasing. Of those surveyed, 57 percent will create a back-to-school budget.
To ease rising school costs, here are five budgeting tips that will help you get more for your back-to-school dollar:
- Create a budget. One of the best ways to spend wisely is to create a budget. If you don’t already have one, open a new spreadsheet on your computer or get out a pen and paper. Consider all the potential back-to-school expenses and not just the obvious ones, such as school supplies and clothing. For example, you’ll want to factor in extracurricular or after-school activities, tutoring, special school trips and even lunch costs.
- Collaborate with other parents. Consider joining parent groups, either through your school or community. These groups can offer a great support network to share ideas and information. They also serve as a fantastic resource for meeting parents who have items such as sports equipment their kids have outgrown or even musical instruments their children no longer play. This can lead to some serious money-saving deals.
- Tap your coin jar. With rising school costs, the old saying that every penny counts really is true. You can literally put this into practice by collecting all the loose change around your house or tucked away in your coin jar and bringing it to a Coinstar kiosk. At the kiosk, you can turn your coins into cash by paying a small fee or put your change toward a no-fee eGift card to use at retailers such as Amazon.com or Old Navy.
- Make a shopping list. Most schools provide a back-to-school list to help you plan and shop for your child. Use this as a starting point to make your own list and then stick to it! Retailers are set up to encourage impulse buys, but checking to see if something is or is not on your list is one of the most effective ways to avoid purchasing non-essential items and blowing your budget.
- Embrace the three Rs. Your kids will probably learn about the three Rs in school: reduce, reuse, recycle. This is a great principle to keep in mind when getting them ready for school, especially for back-to-school clothes. Choosing quality basics such as a jacket, skirt, sweater or jeans that can be combined with other clothing in your child’s closet will reduce the need for quantity purchases. In addition, consignment stores and online retailers are very popular and offer gently used items that check the “reuse” box. And finally, don’t forget to take advantage of hand-me-downs, whether from older siblings or friends.
Going back to school should be an exciting time for you and your kids. With these five budgeting tips, you can help cut the financial stress out of the process and kick the school year off to a great start.