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 School supplies such as these don’t spoil or go out of date.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?