Take These Steps to Get Ahead of Back to School Planning

Summer activities start wrapping up, vacation season winds down, and school will soon be back in session. If you’re like most people, you probably put managing your finances on hiatus over the summer break too. Maybe you even spent more than planned while the kids were out of school, or while you were on vacation. The end of summer is a good time to take a quick look at how you’re doing and do a little back to school planning for your finances.

Budget check: Take a quick look at your spending while the kids were on break. Was it below average, right on target, or off the charts? With BrightDime you can view all your spending in one place, see how you’re doing compared to your average monthly spending, and where exactly you’re over-budget. If you went a little overboard this during this school break, now’s the time to get back on track and plan for the rest of the year.

Back to school shopping: Everyone likes to go back to school shopping, except for the parents who know their kids want the latest and greatest clothing, supplies and technology.  Before you head to the mall, review what supplies you already have at home, see if that backpack will last another year, go through the closets and then make your list and set a budget. Look for the sales and ask about student discounts. Many states have tax-free weekends for school supply shopping – keep an eye out for yours.

School tuition: Whether it’s daycare, private school or college, planning for these expenses in advance can save you a lot of money over the years. Here are a few examples:

  • Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account (DCFSA): If you have daycare (for a child or elderly parent) or after-school care expenses, your employer may offer a flexible spending account. These let you contribute part of your salary, before taxes, to an account to pay for these expenses on a pre-tax basis, saving you 20-30%. Learn more here.
  • 529 Plans: These are tax advantaged savings plans designed to help with future education costs, where your money can grow over time and be withdrawn tax free for eligible expenses. Learn more here.
  • Financial Aid: There are many ways to pay for school including scholarships, grants and loans. Check in advance to see what your school offers and apply early.

Other school expenses: If your child takes part in athletics, band, clubs or other extra curricular activities, these expenses can add up quickly. Ask friends and neighbors to borrow equipment, instruments, or other items or check Facebook Marketplace and other online second-hand stores. Don’t forget to check with your school about any fundraisers they may hold to help cover the costs.

With a little time and planning, getting those kids back to school can be less of a financial burden and a happier occasion for all.