8 tips to help lessen the financial burden for back-to-school parents.
Schools are integrating more technology, and inflation is rising. These are only a few factors contributing to parents’ financial stresses. No matter your student’s age, finding room in your budget for books, clothes, and supplies could be a test of economic creativity.
Luckily, there are mental and financial reprieves from the monetary burdens of the back-to-school season if you know where to look.
The amount parents spend on back-to-school
Parents are feeling more pressure and spending more than ever on schooling. Regardless if you are seasoned in back-to-school shopping or this is your first time, there are plenty of items to consider when heading out to the store:
- Clothing, including gym clothes and uniforms
- Lunch boxes and water bottles
- Stationery, like notebooks, pens, and binders
- Dorm essentials, if applicable
- Math tools like calculators and rulers
- Tech accessories like headphones or laptop bags
- Calendars and planners
- Art supplies
There are also less common items, such as subscriptions to online services if your student uses tutoring aids or virtual flash cards. Regardless, it’s always valuable to follow two rules — shop online first and look for coupons. The average parent now spends 8% more in 2022, around $660 dollars per student on back-to-school shopping. Apart from coupon clipping, there are other ways to make the shopping experience triumphant instead of discouraging.
Wait until after the first day
You may have found a back-to-school shopping checklist online, and it includes everything in the store. Blanket recommendations aren’t always accurate to what your student truly needs.
Though students like the thrill of shopping before the first day, you may choose to wait until the first week to do back-to-school shopping. Take stock of the clothes and supplies they have from the previous year and analyze them against the teachers’ syllabi to see what they need.
Maybe the teacher provides protractors or sketches paper, opening more room in your budget. It prevents purchases made from second guesses — going from the syllabus will allow you not to fret and ask, “But what if they need this?”
Assert usefulness over trendiness
Peer pressure and exposure to the most fashionable trends are part of a school ecosystem, whether in grade school or college. Your student may want back-to-school clothes from trendy designer clothing shops or impractical stationery. Instead of saying no to the student outright, assert the usefulness of cheaper and more practical alternatives to open their mind to the possibilities. You could also opt to shop without your children to lessen tension.
Make points to say certain clothes will be more comfortable or authentic to their style instead of other peoples’ recommendations. Defend how other tools provide the same benefit even though they won’t be what everyone else has. The student must understand they won’t be lacking, even if products are secondhand or generic brands.
Instill financial awareness from a young age
Talking to your kids about money may be the most helpful budgeting tool. If they understand the practical aspects of budgeting before back-to-school shopping, they will be more likely to appreciate your methods. Teaching students the inherent value of objects outside of cost will allow them to appreciate more why they’re going back to school in the first place.
Know convenience and cost may not overlap
Though it takes more time to prepare home-cooked lunches for students, you’ll notice the difference in your grocery bill. Prepacked meals cost families hundreds of dollars more every semester — most of the cost of the meal goes into the packaging anyway, not the food. It’s an opportunity to practice your time management and cooking skills, giving your children more whole foods and tastier meals. They will appreciate the care in every bite.
Consider your income
This is especially important for parents considering childcare. The cost of putting children in daycare if parents have full-time jobs may not be worth it when comparing the costs against each paycheck. Alternatives include babysitters or going part-time if this is a feasible option for your situation.
This is also important if the student wants to engage in extracurricular activities. Sports and arts programs are different than seasonal back-to-school shopping — these expenses spread throughout the year.
Costumes or uniforms, travel costs, and additional money for meals for afterschool programs add up. If your child is passionate about an outside school activity, research community groups, organizations, or even libraries that may offer low-cost or free alternatives.
Prepare all year, expecting change
You could use traditional envelope methods of saving, taking a little bit out of each paycheck as a nest egg for next summer. This could allow you to purchase evergreen items over time instead of in bulk, making the financial strain seem more tolerable. Registered education savings plans (RESPs) also exist for parents to benefit from thinking ahead for their child’s education, especially for higher ed.
Another way to prepare all year is by researching resources and scholarships. Depending on your student’s schooling stage, varying scholarships may be available — they are not just for college students. Grants can help buy clothes or books or cover room and board costs for boarding schools.
The key is to be flexible. Prices for certain items may go down while others skyrocket. Inflation could continue to charge ahead. More tax-free shopping weekends could appear in your state. Allocating for unknowns and being willing to stay up-to-date will create more stability for the shopping season.
Talk to the school and parents
There are countless resources available for financial assistance if you ask. Calling the school is a great place to start to see what they can offer to help. Waivers, grants, or discounts could fall into your lap with one phone call or meeting.
Other parents in the community could also provide priceless insight. They could point you toward a gift card program for backpacks or other support resources you didn’t know existed. Some may have groups to provide hand-me-down supplies or donate excess from their shopping trips.
Secure health insurance
School provides countless opportunities for students to get sick. Saving on back-to-school expenses isn’t just about that first week — it encompasses the whole year. Securing insurance that will decrease the costs of doctors’ visits could save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars throughout the year. Plus, it provides security for your family’s health, no matter the household income.
Affording school for your kids
Though it seems like a juggling act to balance all the costs associated with school, it’s possible to lessen the burden with one book or all supplies. There is no need to open a credit card to get through the back-to-school season if you take a moment to breathe and prepare. Resources exist to help parents make their student’s next school year the most productive and prepared yet.