It’s that time of year again… back to school! Many families have already packed up the 1st lunch bags, shopped the sales to find folders for $1, or drove hours to send off college kids for the 1st time. You might be thinking “back to school” is over, right? Well it isn’t. Back to school is just the beginning of the most expensive time of year. School photos, uniforms, clubs, sports, instrument rentals, tuition, etc. are all things that will plague your mind and your budget for the next 9 months. We’ve only just begun!
I wanted to take a few moments to give you some tips for tackling this time of year, so you don’t lose your mind and all your money. Here we go!
For those families with students still at home here are a few things to remember as you begin your school year…
1. Create space for the unexpected. I’ve been budgeting now for 20 years. I have tracked my spending and double checked my account, but sometimes I forget things. We all do. Give yourself a bit of wiggle room or misc. money to catch those times when you forgot to add in the orchestra cello repair fee to the budget (yep I just did that!). Life happens and you don’t need to stress about it.
2. Decide what is most important. There are tons of activities, sports, events, etc. for our kids to participate in. Don’t waste your time or money on activities that your child doesn’t enjoy, takes up a ton of time, or causes him/her to lose focus on the reason they are in school – learning. It doesn’t make sense to be so involved in expensive activities while grades are suffering. Take a moment to consider what your schedule and budget allow so there is some balance to your child’s life.
3. Just say NO! Yep some of my readers saw that one coming… 😊 Do you really need to buy those school pictures that you never do anything with? How many pairs of unworn jeans are already in the closet with tags on it? Maybe your son just needs a new pair every month instead of 10 pairs at the beginning of the year. Kids grow like weeds, remember? Teach your kids that you have set up healthy boundaries with money so that spending frivolously isn’t your family reality.
For our families with college kids (like me now!) read on…
1. Consider giving your student a certain amount of money at the beginning of each month for them to manage. Don’t transfer money every other day just because they ask. Teach your student to manage their checking account with enough money so they can buy food, clothes, entertainment, etc. for a full 30 days. Show them that you trust their ability to figure it out on their own and allow them to try. They may stumble and overdraft but that is a lesson they won’t soon forget. It is in these moments that young adults begin to see what boundaries look like. This is great practice for the future when they must manage more money entirely on their own.
2. Be mindful of tuition bills especially if your student is taking out loans. Colleges and universities don’t need to tell the parents how much the student is taking on in loan debt. My parents had no idea how much my student loan debt added up to when I graduated! Inquire about their need to take out these loans. Evaluate how much you can help and then make sure your student understands what the total student loan balance will add up to and what that monthly payment could look like.
3. Allow your young person to get a job. Working is empowering. It helps you manage your time better. And of course, every college kid needs to feel like they have the freedom to order pizza at midnight while they are studying. Also, if your student works while in college they can help pay for books, activities, and possibly tuition or rent to reduce your out of pocket costs and the need for loans. Working is a win/win in my book.
Well now you know that back to school is a journey not a date. Let’s plan to make this your student’s best year yet while you stay in control of the financial impact as best you can.