Budgeting for Back to School

This post is brought to you by guest author, Jenna Smith.

This time of year, almost everyone is thinking about and preparing for going back to school. Many states sponsor a “Tax Fee Weekend” that allows anyone to purchase school and office supplies, including computers and iPads, without having to pay sales tax on those items. You can take advantage of this deal even if you don’t have kids–it’s an instant savings of anywhere from 7% – 13%, depending upon the sales tax rates in your state. For families, saving that much on school supplies, new clothes and even techie items for the high schoolers and college kids can really help the budget.

Education is all about different stages, usually based on the age of the child. Some moms and dads are sending their little ones off to Pre-K or Kindergarten for their very first school experience at 4 or 5 years old. Others are sending their bunch off to multiple schools, grade school, middle school and high school. And finally, some are heading off to a college campus and a dorm.

Collectively, moms across the country are doing the happy dance on the way home from the school bus stop or celebrating their first peaceful moments at home, alone, since summer break started two months ago.

Back to school is the time for new backpacks, crayons and pencils, glue sticks and notebook paper, and lunch money. Isn’t it funny how we scramble to get everything gathered and ready for the first day of school? When I was a kid, we all got a haircut the week before going back to school. And my mom would take us shopping at the big department stores to buy each of us a new pair of shoes, some new clothes, and a lunch box for the kids in grade school – only the kids in middle school and high school were allowed to buy school lunches.

Where I went to school we did not have to bring many supplies to school with us – just a few binders and pencils and we were good to go. But kids these days get a whole list of items from their school’s web site and have to go shopping for school supplies.

When my folks sent me off to college, I was thrilled to have a car of my own. They let me take the car that I learned to drive with, the family sedan, and used that as a good excuse for my mom to buy a new car. It was a win-win for us! They didn’t send me with a student credit card, though. Credit was not something we even talked about, but they did expect me to live frugally. They even worked out a budget with me before I drove off to start my life away from home.

We plan to give our own kids as many advantages as we can afford when they are ready for college. We’ll help them buy cars when they start driving, assuming they keep their grades up and don’t get into trouble. We’ll apply for grants and scholarships and encourage them to go to a state school so we only pay the lower in-state tuition rates.

And we’ll prepare them for living on a modest budget, which will include getting them this student credit card for their living expenses on campus. It’s just a matter of deciding which card – either a low interest rate card if they will carry a balance every month, or a rewards card if they are able to get a part time job and help pay their bills while in college.

It’s right around the corner, that time of the year again–back to school–so you might as well start planning ahead.

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