Thrifty Back to School
The gals and I were running through the stores this morning and ran past the Back To School aisles. I’m telling you what, the bug has hit! This year I am the one who wants summer to last forever and my gals are itching for the fun and the new of the school year. I have one gal who will continue to homeschool and 2 that will return to public school. I’m excited for them but will miss the endless days with all of us together.
Another thing that I know I am not alone in dreading is the expense of the beginning of a new school calendar. Homeschooling and public school expenses can be budget busters when you add in the activities fees, the college classes that my oldest in school child is taking, and school pictures all being at the beginning of the year. Some of these expenses are non-negotiable but I’ve found some ways to help ease the burden of the possible Back to School budget crisis.
Plan a Back to School Budget
There are 2 categories I keep in my “sinking fund” budget no matter what that wind up being a life saver, back to school and Christmas. I know roughly what will be needed each year for getting the kiddos ready for the new school year. I budget $100 each for a new pair of gym shoes and a new outfit for the first day. It’s one of the only times in the year where we don’t purchase clothing second hand and the girls love it. Tradition worth keeping for sure. Then I add in the college classes Hannah is taking, what a great way to get some college credits started at a discount, and the different fees. I budget $30 in each for pictures and $100 each for supplies. Then I budget in an additional $200 for Sophea for homeschool co-op fees, curriculum, and whatever else we need for homeschooling.
Add it all up, divide by the number of months in a year… and that is how much I set aside each month to pay for back to school expenses. We rarely even use it all. Whatever is left is set aside for things that come up throughout the school year. If there is money left over at the end of the school year I can use that money to put in for one of my monthly “payments” to the sinking fund.
Build a Stash
You might consider buying the basics in bulk. Keep a stash in hidden so the kiddos don’t think it’s a free for all and then dole them out when needed throughout the school year. I pick things up when I find them on yard sales or clearance shelves. Taking my stash out at the beginning of the new school year and comparing it to the list of needed items (they don’t vary much year to year I’ve found) before we go shopping is a great money saver as well. We can usually cross of a goodish lot before we even hit the store.
Don’t Make It “Not Fun”
If you’ve budgeted in advance or have a teensy bit of wiggle room I always try to let the kids pick out something fun. A themed notebook or folder, some awesome pencils that you don’t really truly need, or something to that effect, can make the shopping trip awesome for the kiddos without busting the budget.
Not always new
I have never been a fan of buying a new backpack and lunchbox every year. Sophea is on year 4 with her backpack and it is still going strong. Clara is on year 2. Yard sales are another great option! We have 4 lunch boxes right now. 2 were gifts, 2 from yard sales. When/if I need to replace them I will try to find them used. Not everything has to be sparkly and brand new for back to school. Finding gently used items and/or using things you already have available are perfectly respectable (and budget friendly) options.
Don’t skimp. Get what they ask and add in a bit more if you possibly can. It will improve the classroom experience for all of the children and help the teacher’s budget.
So, those are my thrifty tips for easing the back to school budget stresses. Remember that the costs of education are fleeting but the value is everlasting.