Back to School spending

In Canada, we’re lucky to have a strong public education system. Part of the reason that I don’t feel resentful of the relatively high taxes Canadians pay is because of the value provided by public schools for my kids. Still, there are costs for sending our kids to school besides taxation. I have heard that for some families, September is the next most expensive month after December. Here are some things we can do to manage back to school spending.

Shop sales and stock up

Students are going to need pencils, erasers, paper and binders throughout the year. Whether you can find good deals at back-to-school sales, or you can find deals on large quantities, or whether there are better clearance sales at store closings or at the end of the school year, stock up when you find a deal. School supplies such as these don’t spoil or go out of date. Keep them in a place in your house that you can easily find them and get them out when they’re needed. As an example, we’ve found that Boxing Day sales are the best time to buy new clothes for our children. We buy the clothes one size larger, then save them for the following year.

Pay fees in instalments

Many schools have fees for field trips, bus transportation and other fees. It may be possible to pay fees with equal post-dated cheques or on a monthly payment plan. If there is no interest charge or administrative fee, this is a good option for spreading out the cost to better match your income. If school fees are a particular burden for your family, you should speak with your child’s principal about your family’s situation to see what other options are available.

Say no to peer pressure

This one is tricky, and I’m lucky that my children haven’t really experienced it yet. Many students seem to come back to school with trading cards, new toys, iPods or laptops. Children invariable show off their new toys and gadgets and our kids want to have whatever they see their friends have. One idea is to have children save up for their own gadgets. We recently opened a bank account for our 7 year old so that he can deposit his allowance instead of spending it (should he choose). He’s saving up for an iPod Touch, which will take quite a while, but birthday money and Christmas money will help. As soon as he buys it, I’m setting a rule that he’s not to take it to school, so he won’t lose it and it won’t make his friends jealous. Another idea is simply to point out that we don’t buy those things in our family. For example, a family that doesn’t buy a laptop for each person can point out that we share the family computer.

Back to school can be a difficult or stressful time for everyone. Hopefully it won’t stress your budget too far if you stock up on sale items, buy clothes on the best sales, find ways to make fees fit your budget and say no to some of the things that kids see their friends buying. How do you deal with the second most expensive month of the year?

5 thoughts on “Back to School spending”

  1. >> Part of the reason that I don’t feel resentful of the relatively high taxes Canadians pay is because of the value provided by public schools for my kids. <<

    In places where there are competing models of educational delivery, such as private school and home education, equal or superior educational outcomes are delivered at a fraction of the cost imposed by the government schools with their bloated infrastructure and teacher unions.

    Maybe the value, expressed as outcome divided by cost, is not as great as some make it out to be, when honestly compared to the alternatives.

  2. I just recently graduated and honestly I wish I was budgeting like we are today. If I was smart back then I would have budgeted in my books and other expenses each year as a projected expense so come time to fork over the money it was already there. We ended up taking it from what we thought we were building “emergency savings”. So much has changed since paying attention to our finances and budgeting. We don’t have kids but if we ever do we will be saving and stocking up like you mention all year long. Cheers Mr.CBB

  3. Andy, I live in Alberta where there are private schools and support for homeschooling. Our public education system is pretty good.

    But don’t get me wrong. I minimize the amount I pay in taxes, and I work with others who bring attention to any mismanagement in the school system. I don’t believe that all governments are always worse managers than private corporations, but bad management exists everywhere and it requires people to speak up with higher expectations.

  4. My sisters are still in school. I try to encourage them to re-use their binders or buy notebooks on sale. I was pretty happy when my youngest sister opted for the 15 cent notebooks at Staples instead of the elaborately decorated notebook that was $3 🙂

  5. 2 things I used to do with my daughter.

    When she was very young (4ish), we did the lesson about taking things to (nursery) school. She wanted to take her new stuffed toy. I tried to discourage her, but in the end she took it with her knowing that if it got damaged or lost or stolen, I would not be replacing it. First day was fine, next day, she came home without it. She was heartbroken, but knew that she wasn’t getting another one. A few days later it showed up in the lost and found. It never left the house again, and she also seldom took other things to school later in life.

    For school supplies, I would allow her one “cool” item, usually is was a backpack or fancy binder (within reason), she got to choose, and the rest of the supplies were plain and cheap.

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