Your family budget is perfect. You’ve got yourself a savings account, you have every bill paid on time, and you’re making all the necessary cutbacks to ensure your family can make it comfortably through each month with your budget intact. It appears your family budget would be the envy of any financial planner.
But, here comes another school year. Perhaps you had to fork-out money to a daycare provider this summer so you think that should cover those school expenses. Unfortunately, hoping that your “extra” money will be there when you need it, or even that it will be enough to begin with, is a strategy that doesn’t normally end well. We all know what happens when we loosely lay out a plan without much to fall back on… that would be those infamous “best laid plans” that we all dread.
You may have already had a few after-school announcements about needing money for some project or another. If you’ve had to scramble to find the money to cover it, then you’ve already seen the error in hoping that there will be enough money for those miscellaneous school expenses. And, it won’t stop there. As the school year goes on, the notes that your youngsters pull out of their backpacks will increase, setting off an avalanche of requests for more and more money. Your children will start to resemble little street beggars. It happens every year.
You most certainly want your little student to participate in every project, field trip, and special event the school has to offer. Your heart is in the right place, it’s just your wallet that’s falling behind. After the first few notes came home in the backpack, you’ve cleaned out the cookie jar. If next week is anything like this week, you’ll be digging into the savings account. This isn’t exactly what you had intended when you set up your savings, but where else is the money coming from? Now that you’ve checked the sofa for loose change, you’ve exhausted your options.
Your family’s budget is probably very tight and I’m sure you don’t want to be nickel and dimed into the poor house by providing your child with money to cover a few school events. This matter of miscellaneous school expenses will never go away, and that’s why it’s time to treat these expenses like a fixed expense in your family’s budget.
If you’re looking around for money to pay for unexpected school expenses, you’re probably going to find it in a place that can’t afford to share. You’re going to be borrowing from a budgeted item to pay for an unplanned expense. Why is this going to ruin your family’s budget? Because the time will come when the item you borrowed from, whether grocery money, utility money, or credit card payment money, will have to be reimbursed in order to make the next installment. If it is the grocery money that’s been depleted, then the next time you go to the grocery store, you’re using the credit card. If it’s the credit card payment that’s been borrowed against, well, you can see where this is going. It looks like you’ll need to plan for these unforeseen school expenses then, but how?
Your school district, like most, very likely has a curriculum laid out for the school year, or at the very least, the semester. Most states require a curriculum for both public and private schools at all grade levels. The curriculum should include school sponsored events like field trips, fund-raisers, library sales, and the like. This is information that you are entitled to.
You’ll want to visit your child’s school office, talk to your child’s teacher, and get a list of the events that are upcoming during the school year. If the school doesn’t have a calendar of events readily available, be sure to follow up and ask when and where that might be made available. Every school board has some sort of budget that they are operating under. If you ask for a curriculum in order that you may budget your household monies, they will most likely understand and be happy to help you.
The request for money to cover school “extras” is not the problem. If you have to say no to some things, I’m sure you can, but I’m sure you would prefer not to refuse your child anything. School expenses should be a well planned out item in your family budget, just like every other important aspect of your family’s life.
Make today the day you stop by the school office and get the information you need to prevent those surprises in your child’s backpack from derailing your family’s budget. Then, when your little one walks through the door, you can smile and enjoy the surprises in store for you from deep within that big ol’ backpack!