This year, many of us have a different picture of back to school shopping. Economic anxiety, fewer dollars, even an uncertain picture of what “back to school” looks like all impact our budgeting.
But with some savvy financial planning, you can keep expenses in check and still help your kids be ready to learn.
Set a back-to-school budget
Then stick to it—don’t forget to include clothing, sports exams, sporting equipment, school supplies, tech/wifi, and fees for clubs and teams. Online budgeting tools like mint.com are user friendly, or a simple spreadsheet can help prevent expenses from creeping up on you.
Plan for at-home learning space
Before you blow the budget on clothes and gear, remember that you may need to account for at-home learning time throughout the year. That means setting up a dedicated workspace. You don’t have to spend big bucks—there are amazing online DIY tutorials like this one that show you how to transform even a closet into cool study space. Budget a little for some furniture, lamps, and storage so that materials stay organized and the space feels homey.
Check your tech
Need a laptop? Apple and Amazon sell refurbished models for considerable discounts. And now’s the time to shop around and see if you can get a better deal AND increased speeds on your wifi, as it’s possible your family may need to rely on it more. Verizon and Xfinity offer some of the cheapest packages starting at $39.99; and don’t forget to call and negotiate with your current provider, especially if you’re a longtime customer tempted to switch to another plan.
Shop your closets first
Before you hit the online sales or head out to shop, be sure to take a quick inventory to see what you really need (need, not want). Sort through outgrown clothes to see what can be repurposed or handed down to younger siblings. And you can avoid buying duplicates by cleaning out drawers and closets. You might even find things you bought and put away for the future, or clothes you were saving until kids grew into them.
With bags full of outgrown items, you can turn them into cash or credit for other clothing at any number of kids’ consignment stores. Online options like Kidizen or ThredUp can be great ways to both buy and sell items that are in good shape. Don’t forget to buy/sell second-hand sports equipment, too. SidelineSwap is an online option, and Play It Again Sports has storefronts nationwide.
Set a limit on activities
It’s true they may be limited already this year, but multiple kids in multiple extracurriculars adds up—fast. Consider limiting each child to one activity, or giving each kid an activity budget and letting them decide how it gets spent. Remember to budget for things like travel, food and lodging for games and tournaments.
Planning for back to school can be a terrific way to include the whole family in financial management, as well as get them involved in sprucing up your home to make it a pleasant and functional place to learn—all great news for your bottom line.