Back-to-school ideas for beating the budget 'gremlins'
Your kids might be too old to worry about monsters under the bed. You may no longer need to check inside their cupboards for bogeymen or leave a light on when they go to sleep. But no matter how old, how tough or how cool your children may be, there are still three little words that can chill them to the bone: back to school. Well, all right, maybe we’re exaggerating a bit. Going back to school isn’t all bad and some kids even look forward to it, but after a two-week break getting your family back into its usual routine can be difficult. While there might not be any monsters lurking under the kids’ beds, the disorganisation gremlins can seem pretty real – and they have a knack of sneaking into your wallet and eating up all your cash while you’re busy working on getting everybody back on track. Fortunately there are some simple money management tricks you can employ to help keep those gremlins at bay and your budget in good shape, and if you plan ahead you can be well prepared for both the rest of the school year and the rest of your child’s school career.
To get you started, here are some great back-to-school ideas that you can start using before school heads back:
Get all your grocery shopping done. Canteen money can be a big expense, particularly when it isn’t something you’ve deliberately factored into your budget. By making sure you have everything you need ahead of time you’ll be able to save money and make sure your kids are getting food that’s good for them.
Stock up on the school essentials. Your kids are likely to need a seemingly endless supply of pens, pencils, rubbers, rulers and glue over the rest of the school year – and most parents are unsurprised by now to see how often their equipment gets lost or broken. Save yourself time and money by buying the cheapest stuff that will work for school and buying it in bulk if you can.
Plan your meals for the next week ahead of time. This is a good idea at any time, but particularly so when your kids have just gone back to school. They’ll probably come home tired and very hungry so being able to answer the question, ‘What are we having for dinner tonight?’ will save you from being tempted to get expensive (and unhealthy!) takeaway to tide them over.
These simple tips will help keep you covered in the first week back at school, but what about the future? We’re heading toward the business end of the school year now – your kids are beginning to work toward their yearly exams, there may be excursions and other unexpected expenses coming up, and soon it will be time to start preparing for next year.
Now is a great time to dust off your budget planner and make sure you’ve allocated enough money to pay for everything your kids are going to need to get through the rest of this year, and an even better time to prepare your budget for the future. You won't need sophisticated money management software to do it, just a rough idea of what the kids are gong to need in the coming years.
If your child is just starting kindergarten, high school or university, or is entering one of the ‘big’ school years the expenses can be even heavier. Year 10 and 12 students sometimes need extra equipment for their major projects, so you might want to adjust your budget to accommodate some extra supplies, just to be on the safe side.
If your child is heading to uni, you might be in for a bigger shock – some of those textbooks really do cost an arm and a leg! Start looking in second-hand or co-op bookshops as an alternative, and keep your eye on university newsletters or message boards – students often sell their textbooks cheaply once they’ve completed a course (just make sure that you’re getting the right edition of the textbook, otherwise it’ll be a waste of money, no matter how cheap it is).
Going back to school when the holidays are over can be a bit rough – but with a bit of organisation you’ll be able to keep the gremlins out of your wallet and your budget intact while still making sure your kids have everything they need for school.
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Tags: back-to-school ideas, money management, budget planner
Wilson Luna is an author, wealth adviser and founder of Your Family Your Money. Your Family Your Money’s goal is to simplify traditionally complex financial strategies, demystify financial jargon and debunk common financial myths, becoming every family’s first stop for financial advice, information and inspiration.