Budgeting for Back-to-School


But it’s only April, you say. The new school year is months away.

Ah, but so are those heavy startup costs. The folders, glue sticks, pencils, calculators, tape, binders and highlighters. Boxes of Kleenex. Locks.

Depending on how you establish your budget categories, you might even include new sneakers, gym shorts, hoodies and jeans in your children’s back-to-school costs. I don’t; I have a separate clothing category for the kids, and it stays relatively stable from month to month. I am also extremely lucky to have an older sister who regularly boxes up and sends me the OshKosh and Children’s Place items that her own children have outgrown.

But it doesn’t just end with the September stock-up. There are myriad other expenses that pop up throughout the school year. If I search YNAB for “school fees”, I can see that over the last two years, I’ve shelled out for school supplies, hot dog lunches, popcorn days, pizza lunches, tennis lessons, chess lessons, festival costumes, badminton lessons, field trips and project supplies. And that’s not all: there’s a camping trip coming up at the end of June for the grade 4s. Cost: $190. (Luckily, the boys’ dad will split it with me.)

YNAB lets me plan for these inevitable expenses ($56.76 for just one term of hot lunches, holy cats!). This makes August much less stressful, because I know I’ve already got a healthy category balance for buying the kids’ school supplies.

And actually, as I flip back through my budgets for the past number of months, I can see that I have been budgeting too little (I had to snatch five or ten bucks from several categories last September so I could blast an extra $70 into the school fees budget). I see now that ten bucks a month isn’t going to cut it, even with my ex sharing some of the costs. I think boosting my monthly budget to $20 will provide me with more peace of mind, especially now that both boys are getting older. And more expensive.

How do you manage your back-to-school costs?