Fall Finances: Back to School…Back on Track
Hi Money Masters!
Riiiiing! Riiiing! That is the sound of alarm clocks going off after a long summer break. It is the sound of the school bell ringing on the first day back. It is also the sound of the cash register adding up all the back to school expenses! Now that the new school year has begun, many of you may find that your finances have slipped from the honor roll to the detention hall!
Whether you are a college student or a parent sending your child off to preschool, the expenses that come with all levels of education can really add up. But don’t get so upset that you break your chalk into pieces- there are ways to get back on track with your money.
1. Don’t give in! Resist the urge to succumb to the pressures of all the added expenses due to multiple extracurricular activities, book fairs, tech gadgets, picture packages (do you really need 50 wallet sized?), sports teams, etc. Many schools offer the latest technology as part of the standard curriculum now as well as clubs and other groups that require no additional costs.
What you can do, if there’s room in your budget, is set an allotted amount to put towards an activity or equipment and let your child choose how to allocate those funds.
2. Make it up. After spending more than planned at the beginning of the year, you’ll need to find other areas within your budget to decrease so you can stay on track. Take advantage of school sports and make Family Friday Game nights a highlight for the week! Take a tour of local pumpkin patches or walk through the neighborhood and check out the Fall and Halloween decorations with a cup o’ hot cocoa!
3. Be a savvy shopper. A few weeks after school begins is when stores will start marking items down. This is a good time to get items that you may have not needed right away, such as a new backpack or lunch box. It is also a good time to grab those items that need replenishment throughout the year, like pencils, paper, and glue. It is not uncommon for retailers to begin markdowns at 50% off. Think about what you will need later in the year because the same items will be back on the shelves at full price in no time.
4. Pool your resources. Chances are, you are not the only person who shelled out a big chunk of moola on school supplies. Talk to other parents and think about ways to share some expenses. Maybe carpooling is an option to save on gas costs? Ask around to borrow sports equipment that another child isn’t using.
5. Get the kids involved. Depending on the age of your school children, help them find ways to contribute to the family income. It could be anything from a part-time job to a lemonade stand. Another option is changing up the idea of allowance. Instead of a financial incentive, offer extra time to hang out with friends or bonus screen time. Think outside the piggy bank!
6. Prepare for next year. Save a screenshot of your budget at this time and keep receipts so you can plan and save in advance of the next school year. You’ll be able to look back and see where you can decrease spending or which areas you can re-allocate and even out. Here’s another tip: use the budgeting and school shopping times to teach children about smart spending and money management!
Getting finances back on track in the Fall requires discipline, strategy, and some good ol’ fashioned creativity. Staying the course and remaining consistent in your strategy will not only boost your financial GPA, but you’ll also be in good shape for the approaching Holidays as well. So, there you have it- homework from Helen 😉 Don’t worry, you’ll get an A+!