You’ve bought the school supplies, but you’re not done spending money on school just yet. Be prepared because it’s those unexpected school expenses that make dents in your budget! You’re done buying notebooks -- now you need money for fundraisers, field trips, and supplies for afterschool activities! Here are some ways you can make sure these expenses don’t eat away at your budget.
Not another fundraiser!
With six kids in school, I simply can’t participate in every fundraiser. In the past I have tried to purchase something, but the price tag eventually exceeded my budget and I limit myself to every other year. And while aunts, uncles and grandparents can be very generous, I also try to limit these options. Another idea is to have an agreement with neighbors to whom you feel close enough to ask. With my former neighbors, for instance, I bought calendars from her two boys and she bought candy from mine.
How much is that trip?!
Whenever possible, plan ahead for field trips and budget accordingly. Take the time in October to budget for a spring field trip to help kids understand how to save up. “Parents should take every opportunity — including the back-to-school season – to redefine spending so kids won’t view it as a way to get as much as they can out of mom and dad,” says Chip Simon of Taconic Advisors, a financial planning firm in Poughkeepsie.
All we used to need was a ball!
If your kids play sports, no doubt you have found that equipment can come with a hefty price tag. “Buying used sports equipment can reduce your costs by half,” says Steven Borko, the owner of Play It Again Sports in Vails Gate. “Kids are always trying new sports until they find what is right for them and that can get expensive. While safety is always the first priority, we buy, sell, trade and consign, so you can get rid of your kids’ old stuff and have four different options to save.” Borko adds that selling in the same sports season will maximize your return. For the biggest savings on new equipment, scope out the end of season clearance sales.
Grandma doesn’t need a photo, does she?
Roy C. Ketcham High School, part of the Wappingers Central School District uses Lifetouch for their school photos. The least expensive package is $21 which includes two 3x5 photos, two 2x3s, and eighteen 1-1/2 x 2-1/2 friend exchange photos. Although using these studios is convenient, there are other options, including such online sites as Mpix (www.mpix.com) and Costco (www.costco.com), where I can still get high-quality pictures at a fraction of the cost. And thanks to learning the basics from a high school photography class, my husband is our official photographer.
John Rizzo, who owns his John Rizzo Photography in Staatsburg (www.johnrizzophoto.com) suggests only ordering what you need to save money. “Trim the list of who you normally send school photos to reduce the cost,” he says. “Consider taking your own photos and submitting them to the school. I know some high schools allow this, from the experience at my daughter's school.
Teenagers and preteens have cell phones with cameras, and take their own photos with their friends very often. Since the quality of digital photography is very high in most of these devices, taking a good photo for a school picture is no longer difficult.” For senior pictures, which are higher priced than other grades, ask if your school requires a certain photo for the yearbook or is a high- quality print from another source acceptable?
A well-fed tutor is worth it
Professional tutors can cost upwards of $100 an hour and are well worth the investment if your child needs support, but with today’s economy, bartering for these services is back in the picture. I had a friend approach me with the offer that she would cook dinner for my large family every few weeks if I would critique her homeschooled children’s writing papers. Since I would rather focus on writing than cooking, I jumped at the chance.
Think about what you could barter. Four hours of gardening can be exchanged for four hours of your child’s math tutoring, a house cleaning for science help, or babysitting for piano lessons. You can also consider having a college student meet with your child. They aren’t as pricey and those who are studying to be teachers look forward to work like this where they can gain experiencing helping a child.
Shakespeare made his costumes!
If you have a budding thespian at your house who joined the school play this year, drama costumes can be a surprise expense. Vintage clothing shops, consignment shops, thrift stores and even Grandma’s attic are all free or inexpensive options for finding those right costumes. And the costumes can double at Halloween as well. Put the back-to-school season on a budget and stick to it!
Margie Sims lives in Norwich, is a freelance writer and mother of nine.