It seems like only yesterday that summer started, and now school is just around the corner. You’ve likely received the supply list for your kids’ school already, and are dreading the cost. There are many expenses that arise only once or a few times a year, so it can be easy to forget about them. However, doing so can easily derail a budget, particularly if you have a very tight budget and there’s no room for changing it during particular parts of the year. Even if you have an emergency fund, most of these costs wouldn’t qualify as emergencies. It’s best to try to remember these costs and to add in extra money to your budget, or put aside money each month in order to have enough. However, in the midst of a busy year, it can be easy to forget these items. So grab a pen and add these expenses to your budget now.
1. School supplies
School is coming, and your kids probably need new notebooks, pencils, markers, and so on. They may even need a new lunchbox or backpack. Your child’s teacher also might require each child to bring items for the classroom, like tissues or sanitizer. If you have more than one child, you might really be dreading the cost of school supplies. When you add in the fact that your children probably want (or need) new clothes, getting ready for school can get expensive. The National Retail Federation says that families with children in K-12 will spend $669.28 on apparel, shoes, supplies, and electronics this year. School preparation happens every year while kids are living at home, so it’s important to factor into your budget.
2. Presents for other kids and teachers
As if purchasing presents for your own kids and maybe your extended family isn’t expensive enough, once your kids get to school age, you will probably spend quite a bit each year on gifts for other kids and for teachers. While teacher gifts are certainly not required, many parents and kids like to give them. Making a gift yourself, or contributing to a class gift, is one way to save money. However, when your kids want to go to birthday parties, saving money can be more difficult. While $10 here and there might not hurt your budget, it’s a good idea to factor these gifts into your budget so that you are prepared when it’s time to spend.
3. Field trips and activity fees
Many schools charge an initial activity fee that you pay before school starts, and depending on the school, the fee might be a few hundred dollars. Unfortunately, these fees don’t always cover field trips, which can also add up, particularly if you have multiple kids in school at once. Field trips are a fun, and sometimes a necessary part of learning, and they should be included in your budget. Another option is to keep kids home on field trip days, but often day care or a missed work day is more costly than a field trip. Usually schools will provide transportation for field trips, but occasionally they will need parent drivers, which you also want to think about.
4. Sports equipment and fees
Sports are fun for kids, and sometimes fun for parents too. Many parents enjoy attending games, cheering on the sidelines, and even helping to coach their kids. However, sports equipment can get very expensive, and kids often need to replace old shoes, gloves, and so on. Sometimes additional costs — like stopping by a fast-food restaurant on the way home from an away-game — also arise. Schools often charge participation fees as well, and parents then have to pay a flat fee for their kids to participate, in addition to all the other costs. While you might be tempted to let your kid play any and all sports that he or she wants, if you want to cut costs, it’s best to be selective. Choosing one or two sports to really learn and excel at also leaves more time for school work and other activities.
5. Camp and other care
Summer can be difficult for parents because it often requires finding and paying for child care. If you work full-time, you may need to pay quite a lot to get safe and fun childcare for your kids during the summer. In addition, you might choose to sign them up for day camps, sports camps, or other camps that they are interested in (there are over 12,000 day and resident camps in the U.S). Although after-school care is more of a consistent expense, it’s important to remember to factor that in to your budget as well. Even if you are home most days when your kids get home, if you have to hire someone to watch your kids occasionally, you will need to figure out how to pay for it.
It’s easy for all the costs related to having kids to add up; when you factor in food and healthcare costs, plus all the less frequent costs mentioned above, your budget can be greatly affected. Try to determine roughly how much you spend each year on these different items so that you can be ready for them when they come around.