Thursday, July 10, 2014

Kids & Money: 5 tips to ease public school costs

Go ahead: Take the moment you need to adjust to the fact that, for some of us, school resumes before the second weekend in August. Now, another second to digest the words public school + costs together.

Ready? Smile

kids & money pic widgetIn the past, I’ve expressed my extreme displeasure over expenses required for public school. Like many others, I have more than one child in primary school so that means three supply lists, three sets of uniforms, school appropriate shoes, field trips, backpacks and extra snacks. The school supply lists include the norm: papers, pencils, crayons and glue, and other requested items are tissues, small and large Ziploc plastic bags, hand sanitizer, dry erase markers and/or erasers, snacks and numerous other niceties that my brain refuses to recall right now.

The issue for me is that the supplies are used for the entire class and thusly stored in the teacher’s cabinet. I understand my children don’t mind sharing and other children may not be able to bring anything, but I’m providing for my three on a dime and a prayer, and I need their supplies to last an entire school year. The expenses don’t end there: We still pay for field trips that DO NOT involve leaving the property. Every event is attached to a fundraiser. And in order to go to afterschool parties and dances there is an entry fee plus snacks for sale. (Snacks are always for sale.)

This constant thought has pricked my brain all school year for the past five school years, and is magnified because I always say: ‘When Amber was little we didn’t have to do xyz or abc.’ Yea, I’ve developed the old-person ability to mull over the same thing for years to come.

We do agree on one thing though, right? Kids are expensive.

Here are five tips to ease the burden back to school has on your wallet:

  1. Buy in advance: This is an age-old tip that savvy moms are using and it still works. It only involves a little planning. Here’s a quick rundown: Check sales flyers or online stores for the current sales, compare prices and choose he best deals, review your coupons, search for specific coupons online, plan your trip in a workable order and return home happy.
  2. The same info above can be applied to Grab the deals: As soon as one school year ends attack the school supply sales head on. Add discount stores like Big Lots, Dollar Tree and Family Dollar to your regular errand list to score supplies for less.
  3. Order in bulk: I’m sure large families have already mastered this. They regularly hit up Costco, Sam’s Club, Walmart and other online retailers as well as brick-and-mortar stores. For some this may mean saving a little money in advance, but when calculating the differences the savings should be apparent.
  4. Back-to-school gifts: Request school supplies or gift cards from grandparents, aunties and uncles. Most will be delighted to provide items that are necessary and useful.
  5. You want, you pay: For field trips, class t-shirts, yearbooks and the like, require your children to use their gift cards, allowance money, cash presents toward extras. You may be pleasantly surprised how selective they are on how to spend their money. Just this past year I began this with my children and I was very proud with their response. In fact, they began working together to ensure everyone could go and/or participate. Of course, I am available to bail them out every once in awhile, but I’m happy with this choice because it teaches two lessons.

What do you think about these tips? Would they work for you? Answer in the comments section and also share any tips that work for you.

Bonus: Check out one of my past posts for tips on back to school success.