The days when you could send your kids off to the first day of school with a lunchbox and a hug are long gone. Today’s back-to-school preparations likely include filling out piles of pre-enrollment paperwork, lining up carpools and, of course, the dreaded shopping excursions for clothes and school supplies.
Here are a few budgeting tips:
• Before you shop, make a comprehensive list for each child. Use previous years’ expenses as a guide and compare notes with other parents.
• Be transparent with your kids about the budgeting process, including how much money is available to spend. Get them involved in prioritizing expenses between “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves.”
• As an added inducement to save money, agree that if you come in under budget, you’ll split the savings with them.
• Spread clothing purchases throughout the year so your kids don’t outgrow everything at once.
• Although shopping online can save money, time and gas, don’t forget shipping and return costs, which could undo any net savings.
• Ask which school supplies you’re expected to buy. Go in with other families to take advantage of volume discounts and sales.
• Find out the cost of extracurricular activities, including athletics, music and art programs. Account for uniforms, membership dues, private lessons, field trips, snacks, etc.
• Rent or buy used sporting equipment or musical instruments until you’re sure they’ll stick with an activity.
Bottom line: Plan ahead for the back-to-school season and you’ll save money, time and aggravation.
Alderman directs Visa’s financial education programs.