How to Budget For Surprise Expenses Throughout the School Year
Budgeting for unforeseen costs can be tricky, especially as a parent. You want nothing but the best for your kids, but the back-to-school expenses of new clothes and supplies are just the beginning.
When your child announces that they want to join the debate team, or they got picked for the traveling hockey squad, you’re thrilled—and a little worried about the extra expenses that come with extra-curriculars. Then there’s the cost of standardized tests, advanced placement and college prep tests, and private tutoring. How do you make sure you’re ready? Here are a few ideas.
Get ahead of the game by planning for extra-curriculars and school sports expenses
When it comes to after-school activities, your kids’ interests may change without warning, but there are some things you can do to feel financially prepared.
Talk to other parents and staff members at your kid’s school, or do some digging around the school’s website to learn about the clubs, activities and school sports offered. Find out the cost to join—including any equipment you would need to buy. Learn how frequently they meet for practice and competition, how much travel is involved, and what your responsibilities as a parent would be. Understand the expenses associated with school sports and activities and you can start to adjust your budget accordingly.
It's also a good idea to talk to your kids about what activities they’d like to explore in the upcoming year. They don’t have to commit to anything yet, but even setting a maximum number of activities or dollars can help you both get a clear picture on what to expect.
The conversation doesn’t have to be about limits or restrictions. Instead, focus on family goals, like taking a vacation or getting a pet, and how budgeting drives those goals. This will not only help you keep your school expenses in check, it will help your kids understand finances and be thoughtful about their own spending decisions.
Small budget items can add up
Shay Ugaldea, a digital client advisor with Umpqua Bank and parent of two, knows all too well that hidden costs can sneak up on you—she learned the hard way when her child charged multiple meals a day to his lunch account. “My son was doing that notoriously,” Ugaldea says. “Growing kid! We set a rule to make our lunches at home the night before. Limiting hot lunch to only once a week is an easy money saver and probably a better nutritional option.”
Consider using an online budget planning tool, like Every Dollar or Mint, to keep tabs on those small everyday expenses. This is where an allowance can come in handy. Give your kid a small amount each week for hot lunch or snacks and allow them to figure out how they’ll spend it—with the understanding that once it’s gone, they’ll have to wait until next week’s allowance comes.
A proactive budget for parents means a less stressful school year for everyone
Whether you’re planning for pre-school childcare, after-school activities or college prep expenses, the sooner you can adjust your budget and start planning for added costs, the better. Mychal Alarilla, a digital client advisor with Umpqua Bank and father of one, suggests making your money work for you. “Most people don’t carry cash, they use their debit card for everything,” he says. “Why not earn money on money you’re going to spend anyway?”
Mychal suggests using a rewards credit card rather than a debit card and putting cash back rewards into a “rainy day” savings account. By paying off your credit card balance each month, you’ll avoid interest charges, and the extra cash will come in handy later in the year when your school budget is running low.
To make the most of your education budget, consider opening an education savings account. The interest you earn on an ESA isn’t taxed, and you can use the account to pay for things like textbooks, tutoring, and tuition. Contact us, or stop by your nearest Umpqua store, for all the details.