Back-to-school season is an exciting time for both parents and students. It is a time of new beginnings, fresh starts, and of course, new school supplies and clothes. However, it can also be a stressful time, especially when it comes to managing your back-to-school budget.
With the cost of school supplies, clothing, and extracurricular activities looming, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. But don't worry; this guide will help you manage your back-to-school budget effectively.
But first, a back-to-school budget tips video
Let's kick off our budget fun with a recent video from Global News Morning:
Setting up your budget
Let us first quickly refresh on budgeting. In short, you should have a stable monthly budget that accounts for the following equation:
Money coming in – money going out = how much you have available to save, invest, or spend
Remember, pay yourself first, handle the bills, put some extra money on your debt, and then save or invest. Stick to your budget (it might help to use a budget planner app), set up an emergency fund, and keep your financial goals in mind. These are all budget planning basics we regularly discuss on this site.
Understanding your income and expenses
Income is any money coming in each month you can use for living expenses, spending, or saving and investing. So put that amount in one column. Subtract your living expenses. Now, with the school year about to start, you might decide to save or invest a bit less or delay non-essential expenses for a month or two.
Whether your kids are in elementary, junior high, high school, or even attending one of our colleges or universities, back-to-school expenses are normal. Here is how to set up your expenses so you do not go overboard:
- List all the items your child will need for the school year. This list might include school supplies, uniforms, backpacks, lunch boxes, etc.
- Do some research to estimate the cost of each item. Amazon is always a great place to start. This approach will give you a rough idea of how much you must budget. Pro tip: Start planning for back to school in May (we know that sounds terrible, but it works).
- Do not forget to include additional expenses like school fees, transportation or bus costs, and after-school activities.
Allocating funds to your back-to-school budget
Once you clearly understand your expenses, allocate funds to each expense category. Prioritize essential items and put money towards those first. If your budget allows, set aside some money for non-essential items or unexpected expenses.
It is important that you sit down with your child or children and understand what they want. School can be challenging, and they will always appreciate anything you do to make their lives easier. Small things, like a lunchbox or trendy jeans, can make a big difference. People often forget this when planning for the back-to-school season. And giving your student some financial autonomy will help them learn to budget and save.
Saving money on back-to-school shopping
Now comes the fun part: Shopping efficiently and finding deals! Here are some tips for saving money in your back-to-school budget:
- Buy in bulk: Items like pens, pencils, and notebooks are usually cheaper when bought in bulk. High quality, cheap school supplies and cheap stationery are always big money savers!
- Shop sales: Many stores have back-to-school deals where you can get items at discounted prices. Other outlets might have “price match” or “beat their competitors' price” promotions.
- Use coupons: Most coupons are digital these days (though the paper ones are still fun). Coupon clipping can save you a pile of money with a little effort.
- Buy used: Save money by buying used items like textbooks or uniforms that don't have to be new. This is especially true for tablet computers like an iPad or laptops like MacBook Pro.
Your back-to-school budget does not have to be stressful. You should first understand your expenses to ensure your child is ready for school without overspending. Take the time to analyze and evaluate your financial situation.
Then, use your money wisely. This involves prioritizing your spending and making smart choices.
Lastly, find ways to save money in your budget. Look for opportunities to cut costs and be resourceful to save money for other elements of your child's education. Remember, the key to successful budgeting is to start early and revise often. And learning from your spending each year is vital.
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