By Stacey Black, BECU Lead Financial Educator
With fall just a few months away, we all know what this means: it’s almost time for kids to go back to school. Returning to school can be stressful for many reasons, not to mention financially challenging. Whether the students in your life are just starting their academic career, are returning to college or are somewhere in between, it’s important to budget carefully to ensure you’re giving your kids the best start to their upcoming school year.
To help you prioritize your spending and save money this 2023-24 school season, below are useful tips from BECU Lead Financial Educator Stacey Black.
- Think through your shopping list. When creating your back to school budget and shopping list, it’s important to think of everything. For example, don’t forget school pictures, extracurricular activities, instruments and even book fairs. Also, it’s okay if you can’t cover everything right away, but creating this list will help you see what you need to tackle first.
- Provide (some) financial autonomy. Consider giving your student a budget and letting them shop on their own. Whether it’s for school clothes or new supplies, this will help them learn the importance of creating a budgeting and sticking to it. “I did this for my own kids and they switched from shopping at department stores to discount retailers before I could even suggest it,” said Black.
- Be a smart shopper. When shopping for back to school, check local consignment shops, thrift shops and local buy/sell groups. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised by some great finds,” said Black. Your local dollar store could also be great place to buy school supplies on a budget. Additionally, don’t feel like you need to buy a whole new wardrobe before school starts – consider spreading out the spending over several months to make it easier on your budget.
- Teach financial lessons. Although you may save money by leaving the kids at home and buying all items yourself, back to school shopping is a great time to sneak in some financial lessons. Choose age appropriate ways for your kids to participate. “Whether it’s talking about needs versus wants, or comparing deals at different stores, take this time to have conversations around finances and the importance of budgeting,” said Black.
- Plan ahead for next year. After all is said and done, calculating how much you spent in total can help you get ahead of the game for next year. Add up what you spent this year and divide it by 12. This is roughly how much you need to save each month to be ready for the following school year.