The ABC's of Back to School without Breaking the Bank

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As we get ready to send our kids off to school, it's hard not to think about the growing costs of educating our children. There are school supplies, clothes & shoes, activities and a whole variety of things that inevitably come up along the way. Fortunately, this transition back to school doesn't have to break the bank if you follow these three guidelines:

A - Analyze Your Needs. What do your children really NEED? There's a difference between needs and wants and it's especially important to keep this in mind when it's back to school time. First, you need to take stock at what you have already on hand. Look at what they currently have (underwear, socks, clothes, supplies, shoes). Second, make sure that the NEEDS are taken care of first. Once the needs are taken care of, if there is money left in your budget, then choose one special thing to start the new year with. It's easy to get carried away with all of the cute and trendy items available but after the first day hype settles down, what's important is that your child have the right tools to get their studies completed.

B - Budget and Plan. You already know what many of your expenses will be so make sure you budget for them year round instead of a huge lump sum at the last minute. Be sure to consider regular supplies like pencils and paper but don't forget about pictures, clubs, lunch money, book fees, yearbooks,  uniforms, and things like these that are always a part of the back-to-school spending.

C - Make Choices. Your child may want to be involved in everything but the reality is that every activity costs money. There may be uniforms to buy, activity fees, snacks, and of course there's even transportation to consider. In order to preserve your bank account (and your calendar!), it's best to make a choice. Choose one activity and be "all in." Instead of focusing on what they don't get to do, make the effort to focus on the one special activity that you are involved in. The biggest thing here is to know what you can finance before you decide what you will do or be involved with.

These are three thoughts to help you stay on track even with back to school expenses in your budget. Keeping these in mind will help you from breaking the bank.