Autumn is quickly approaching and one day very soon the streets will once again fill with yellow buses as the temperatures drop and the school bells start ringing. For families with kids, it’s easy enough to think of the school year and the summer months as one ongoing period of time, but splitting things up a bit can be helpful for wrapping one’s mind around life’s trials and tribulations. Plus, it is pretty beneficial when it comes to budgeting. After all, the average family’s routine is probably pretty different in July than it is in October. Their spending patterns will reflect that change, and this is how you can prepare for it so you’re ready:
Anticipate a Change in Lifestyle
This one’s pretty obvious, but your daily life is clearly going to change once your kid is back in school. Is your kid ready for that? More importantly, are you? Depending on your child’s age, you may have to start concerning yourself with school commutes, providing meals, or just making sure they’re up in the morning and not snoozing their academic future away. Be prepared to take a more hands-on approach in their lives after the fun folly of summer. Homework will need to be done, projects will need to be there, and you’re going to have to be there every step of the way. Even if you spent your summer working while they enjoyed their break, prepare to shift gears. And, since school is at the center of their life experience, that’s often where money is going to be spent. What type of costs can you anticipate when your routine changes? Does waking up earlier mean more trips to Starbucks for Mom and Dad? Suss out the little things that’ll start to eat away at your pay.
Change in Budget
Unless you homeschool, your child is going to be away from home for at least eight hours a day, five days a week. Recalculate your family budget and adjust accordingly before the school starts. Will you be spending less money on food or more? Electricity and gasoline? Will your costs increase because you have to pay for a school service or after school care? Take a look at your summer expenditures and compare them to fall of last year and note the differences to plan an accurate back to school budget.
Set Aside a School Fund
School is a financial investment. That’s obviously true if your child is enrolled in private school, but even public school will come at a cost. You’re just going to end up spending money on things—paper, pencils, clothes. And then there’s college on the horizon. It will be helpful to set aside some money, even just twenty or thirty dollars a week, for a school fund in case you suddenly need to invest or purchase something you weren’t anticipating.
Prepare for Fees
Try to anticipate what fees and expenditures that will come your way so you can set it aside in the school fund and not have to worry about it. Things like books, class supplies, and field trips are all factors to reasons to fill that fund. When the school dance comes up or that awesome trip to the amusement park your kid begs you to go on, it’ll be helpful to have something already set aside. Ditto if they’re involved in sports and extracurricular activities which comes with costs of their own.
Create Inventory of Needs
Take stock of what your kid has and what they’ll need for academic success before the school year even begins. Are they going to need new clothes or new materials? Keeping them stocked with pencils and pens is easy enough, but items like backpacks, graphing calculators, and a new computer can sneak up on you and throw you off if you weren’t anticipating. Figure out what they need ahead of time so you can plan for it.
Set Doctors Visits Early
Getting to the doctor is a headache during the school year. Both of you and your child will likely have to take time off, waiting rooms aren’t fun, and finding the right appointment can be a hassle. Save yourself some pain by taking care of everything early. It’ll be easier to set an appointment for your child before the school year actually begins. If you can, do it before class starts so they don’t have to take a day off from school. Also, it will allow you to be sure to take care of any shots or immunizations that they’ll be required to get beforehand. Lock down the dentist while you’re at it!
Get Birthday Party Nonsense Out of the Way
Let’s face it: no matter how old your child is they’re going to need some attention on their birthday, and it’s going to cost you financially. If they’re well into their teen years, it might be as simple as throwing some cash their way so they can have a rowdy (and responsible) night out on the town. If they’re younger, you might be stuck having to figure out a birthday party. Either way, set aside whatever you think you’re going to spend, and figure out what you’re comfortable providing so their special day doesn’t sneak up on you. You’ll be grateful you did.