It’s Time to Build Your Back-to-School Budget
We just left behind record-setting 100-degree summer weather in Portland, Oregon. The cool temperatures of the Oregon Coast are still calling, and it’s time for us to start packing our young students backpacks because the new school year will be here before you can say ‘fall semester.’ We just returned from Carroll College in Helena, Montana where our youngest Kayla will be attending her freshman year. If you haven’t done it yet, it’s time to build your Back-to-School Budget.
As you know, there is a significant financial cost associated with the start of a new academic year. Regardless of whether you’re a parent thinking about your children’s back-to-school budget, a college student living away from home, or a full-time worker attending night school, the challenges are similar.
School requires many different items to be successful – all of which can add up in a hurry if you’re not careful. Here are some widely applicable tips for managing back-to-school costs:
1. Save for textbooks and materials: Textbooks and materials for higher education classes can rapidly add up to hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars for just a semester. Starting a savings plan for these items ahead of time can help reduce unpleasant surprises down the road. Make sure to confirm with professors if you can buy used editions, or purchase them from discount textbook sites – you’d be surprised how much you can save. Bonus tip: unless there’s reading you need to do ahead of your first day, it can pay off to wait until then to buy your books, as instructors sometimes make last-minute changes, or provide online access to or print outs of all the materials you’ll need.
2. Don’t forget incidental costs: There are always unexpected costs when it comes to education. Some of these costs are obvious, but there are other costs you might not think of right away. Calculators, different types of database access, or even buying large amounts of paper and ink can cost a pretty penny. Don’t let these slip your mind!
3. Double-check your aid: With the number of charter and other non-public options for elementary and high school education, the concept of financial aid is not something limited to college students anymore. Right now, before the school year starts, find out what you qualify for and what you are actually receiving.
4. Make a budget: This might not be a groundbreaking idea, but you’d be surprised by how many people fail to put together a budget for back-to-school shopping. Like anything else, not putting together a plan or budget before you start spending money will almost always result in you spending more than you should. Make a plan, stick to it, and your wallet will thank you down the road.
5. Research helpful tools: One tool the AICPA recently rolled out is a new interactive digital game, Yesterdays’ Tomorrow. The game allows players to see the outcomes of financial decisions made during different stages of their lives. With college and higher education representing a significant financial investment, this game can help bring to light important aspects of planning for college and more.
While back-to-school may be a hectic time of year, it doesn’t have to blow a hole in your budget. If you put together a plan for your spending, you can reduce your stress levels. So, get those pencils sharpened and USB drives out, the new school year is almost here!
This article is in large part by Sean Stein Smith, CPA, CGMA – Member of the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission and Assistant Professor at Lehman College, City University of New York and by Guest Blogger on Jul 27, 2017, in Financial Literacy.
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