For many families, the crisp scent of the fall air is a signal that it is time to start preparing for going back to school. Shopping for new pencils, backpacks and notebooks is always an exciting time for both parents and children alike. Because children have an interest in the things that they are purchasing for school, this is also a great time to discuss how to budget a back to school allowance. When planning for how students will be spending their back to school funds, there are a few key areas that families will want to keep in mind.
1. Back to School Lunches
School lunches can vary in both their price and their appeal according to different school systems. Parents will need to consider whether their child will be taking their lunch on some days or buying a lunch from the cafeteria during the week. Another aspect of school lunches for families to discuss is if a student will also be buying breakfast as this can substantially increase a back to school budget. If the student will be allowed to purchase extras such as dessert, then this will also need to be planned out beforehand. Families will also want to plan for any extra snacks or meals that a student might wish to have for when they get home after school. Depending upon the school, parents can decide upon the best way to handle this portion of a student’s back to school allowance for kids. Some schools arrange for an account to be set up so that parents can prepay while others simply accept cash. How this should be handled will depend upon a student’s age and the family’s level of trust.
2. Back to School Supplies
Some schools issue a supply list before the beginning of the new school year while others wait until the first week at school. Typically, the supplies that are needed will vary according to the age and grade level of the students. For example, preschool and kindergarten age students will need items such as crayons, construction paper and markers. On the other hand, high school students will need basic paper, pens and notebooks. Also, older students may also need to remember to purchase a lock for their locker.
Many teachers also request special supplies for their classes. These could include batteries, tissue and notepads. If students will be taking any special courses, then these will also need to be factored into the allowance as well. For instance, a student who is taking art classes may also need to purchase special brushes and paints. Once the main supplies have been purchased, then parents will also need to plan for replacing items as they are used throughout the year. It is a great idea to take advantage of any back to school sales and purchase a few extras to be kept in the house in order to avoid a last minute trip to the store to finish a project.
In addition, some schools will offer kids the chance to purchase a school supply box with all of the items they will need for the school year. Schools often schedule these school supply box sales during the prior year as a fundraiser. Be sure to check with your child’s specific school to see how they handle school supplies, as each school is different.
3. Back to School Clothes and Shoes
Students grow so fast that they usually need a few clothes and shoes to start out the new school year. A back to school wardrobe also gets kids excited about showing off their new clothes on the first day of school. A back to school allowance should plan for a few staples such as tennis shoes, pants and shirts. Then, a few trendy pieces can be added to keep the kids looking stylish for their new year. It is also important to remember to budget for coats, rain jackets and galoshes as the weather can quickly turn cold and rainy during this time of the year.
4. Back to School Activities
For students, going back to school also means taking part in extracurricular activities such as sports, clubs and student government. These activities usually include dues or fees along with money for special events. If a student participated in these activities last year, then they will already have an idea of how much money to budget for in the back to school allowance. However, if it is a new activity, then parents may need to estimate and wait for the school year to begin before making a final allotment. Students who are participating in a sport will also want to make sure that they have planned for purchasing any uniforms, sports equipment and gym clothes that they may need for practice. Band students will need to purchase or rent their instrument and accessories while choir students often need to purchase a special uniform as well. If a parent is unsure of the expenses involved in an extracurricular activity, then they may wish to ask the adult sponsor that is in charge of that department. In addition, you can ask other parents of children who have participated in prior years what to expect.
5. Back to School Electronics
Gone are the days when a simple pad of paper and a pencil were enough to complete a back to school list. Today’s schools are taking advantage of modern technology to enhance lesson plans and aid in completing assignments. Depending upon the student’s grade level, parents may need to include electronics in their budget as well. For example, many high school students find that they need to purchase a scientific calculator for studying mathematics. Laptops and other portable products can help students to take their assignments to and from school as well. Additionally, many schools are now requesting that students purchase flash drives so that they can transfer and store documents. While most schools do not require many expensive electronics, certain courses such as photography or graphic design may suggest purchasing a student their own camera or software to help make things easier on everyone.
6. Back to School Furniture
Not all students will need to include furniture in their budget, but it is a smart thing to consider. Parents should make sure that their child has a quiet place to study in the home. A computer desk and a chair can help to designate an area as a homework zone. For older students who are off to college, parents will need to consider dorm furniture in their student’s back to school allowance. Small chairs, lamps and rugs are popular necessities for many freshmen. For younger students who are beginning to read, parents may want to set up a cozy reading area. Beanbag chairs or video loungers are inexpensive ways to set up a comfortable reading spot.
7. Back to School Entertainment
This area of the back to school allowance is one where parents will want to give their child a little freedom to choose. There are often special events held at the beginning of the school year that will need to be budgeted for in advance. Some schools hold back to school dances while others may have a special play, family fun night or a concert. These events often require a ticket or a donation in order to be admitted. Therefore, students will want to make sure that they have money saved up in advance of the event.
8. Back to School Extras
No matter how much a parent might plan, there are always extra expenses that pop up once the school year begins. There are often fall picture packages to purchase, and many schools request that yearbooks be ordered at the beginning of the year. School fundraisers are often started early in the school year, and students who are participating in them will usually want to buy items from their club or their friends. Many schools also have student run stores that sell supplies in the event that a student has lost or forgotten theirs. Therefore, it is always wise to make sure that a student’s allowance includes some cash that they can keep stashed in their pocket or their lockers.
When planning for a back to school allowance, there are many things to consider. Some expenses are obvious such as clothing and supplies while others are somewhat less predictable. However, including some extra money in a back to school allowance can help families to ensure that there will be enough funds to cover every need. Involving students in the planning and spending of their back to school allowance is the best thing a parent can do to offer their child an opportunity to learn about responsible financial planning.
In addition, parents can encourage their children to earn some of the money for back to school expenses either through chores or jobs for kids. Discuss with your child how much you’ll be contributing towards their back to school expenses and how much you expect them to contribute. You can divide it up based on a dollar amount or you can offer to pay for certain supplies and ask your child to be responsible for paying for certain supplies.