Budgeting for Your Child’s School Year

by admin on November 8, 2011

You just spent a couple of hundred dollars for clothes and school supplies, but you know this is not the end of it. You will be parting with money until June. There are book fairs, class parties, hot lunch programs, after-school gymnastics, and what not. Thinking of these, it is surprising that many families are not prepared to meet these extra costs.

True, more parents in Canada are budgeting for back-to-school shopping in 2011 compared to last year, but in terms of percentages, these are 34 and 29 of respondents respectively. Moreover, only 50 percent of those who are budgeting follow their budgets perfectly. Some 42 percent of parents think they are likely to overspend, and 8 percent have overspent already (Ipsos Reid poll).

It is easier to have this pay-as-you-go mindset if you have one child, but what about parents of three or four children? Budgeting may be key, especially if you have to choose between Lunch Lady, milk-and-cookie snacks programs, pizza days, and the like. School-year expenses can vary quite a lot depending on the type of school, whether the parent council is active, and of course, the age of the child/ children. Some parent councils are good at fundraising, and they subsidize field trips, team uniforms, and other school expenses, while others leave it to parents to cover the costs, explains author of Money Smart Mom: Financially Fit Parenting Sarah Deveau (the Globe and Mail).

What if you are one of those parents who have to meet all school-year expenses? The key to budgeting is to reduce expenses. One thing to do is sell outgrown clothes and unneeded supplies from last year as to raise funds for this school year. You can offer these to a consignment store, sell them on eBay, or organize a yard sale. Reusing is an alternative to selling. You may find notebooks, which have only a couple of sheets ripped out. And the lunchbox or backpack from last year may be as good as a new one. Sport equipment often lasts for more than one season, and the computer is certainly not a piece of equipment to change every couple of months. As most kids, yours probably want news things.  If money is tight, however, you can explain this to them. Even better, you may want to explain to them why equipment and supplies from last year are as good as new stuff. Moreover, buying brand new things sometimes amounts to spoiling, which is not the best of ideas. Replace items that are really past their usefulness and those that are outgrown.

Pay attention to loss leaders. Some discounters sell items like scissors, glue, pencils, paper, and so on for very low prices just to get clients in the store, hoping that they will buy everything there. Why not buy the cheapest there and walk out?  Finally, do not over-promise – tap dancing, jazz, yoga, or other classes, especially if … you have three children.

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