How to budget for school activities
Education costs go well beyond tuition, which is certainly the largest bill but not the only one. (File photo)
It’s back-to-school season again, and parents of school-age children are getting ready to collect school supplies, confirm after-school care plans, and make sure that everything -- from transportation to lunch boxes and extracurricular activities -- is set to make for a successful school year. And all of this comes at a cost.
Education costs go well beyond tuition, which is certainly the largest bill but not the only one. The additional costs that go through the school year add up to a significant amount of money every month, and that is why they should planned and budgeted for carefully to ensure that they don’t just strain your budget.
In addition, knowing how much you spend monthly on these items can help you make more information financial decisions when you and your children are considering a new activity with an additional monthly cost.
Here are a few points to get your budget for the school year right.
Tuition aside, the school year’s costs are split into two categories: initial supplies and ongoing spending on activities, childcare, transportation, food, etc. That is why your budgeting should take both into consideration.
Have a realistic budget for how much you can afford spending on the initial shopping, and try to fit your purchases within this budget. There will be some items, like uniforms for example, which are hardly negotiable. But almost everything else from what type of backpack to the specifications of a laptop can be much more flexible.
It can be helpful to have a budget in mind before you hit the stores to stay within your means. In addition, don’t get carried away with purchases that might not be needed. If you have a list of supplies from the school stick to it. If not, make your own list and avoid collecting items that look trendy. Think twice before buying top-of-line everything because children’s education needs change quickly and some of these items may end up useless in a year or two.
Ongoing costs of activities, transportation and food must be accounted for in your budget through the school year. Knowing how much these will add to your monthly spending can help you balance your overall budget more efficiently. You also may be able to see if better, less costly alternatives are available.
Recycle and reuse
A new school year doesn’t have to mean purchasing all-new gear, electronics, etc. An older laptop that doesn’t meet your secondary-school student’s needs may be passed to a younger sibling. Last year’s backpack can be used for another year if it is still in a good shape.
These common-sense decisions should become the norm rather than the exception. It may take some compromising and a change of mindset from everyone involved. In some situations, these decisions can at least reduce your initial costs, which helps as you buy things when they become needed rather than all at the beginning of the year.
Back-to-school shopping is a great opportunity to teach children some financial planning and discipline. Once you have a budget in mind, share it with your child or children, and make sure that you explain which items are top priorities. By doing so, you’re more likely to get some cooperation during the shopping process, and they will also be able to make compromises that they are happier with – getting a trendy reusable water bottle and a cheaper pen holder, for example.
The bottom line is that the more you’re transparent about the financial limits and the more participation you get, the easier this mission can be. Regardless to your social and financial status, children will need to learn that trying to keep up with others in terms of possessions and appearances only leads to disappointment and inferiority. So give them as much control as you can to make purchases that fit within a budget.
By Rania Oteify
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