Listen up Moms — and Dads! – if you want to save some serious money this September and the rest of the school year. We all know that school is back in session, so you’ve already shelled out a small fortune for your kids’ clothes, textbooks and school supplies.
But what about all that other school stuff — all those “extras” that can take a bite out of your budget?
If you’re not careful, everything from PTA fees and fundraisers to sports equipment and field trip expenses can throw your finances out of whack, or worse, cause you to rack up debt.
Thankfully, there are four smart ways to reduce costs for all those school “extras” that seem to surface this time of year.
Tip #1: Set Limits
Your kid may have his or her heart set on performing in the school play, playing a sport, and joining an after-school club as well. That’s great for your child’s social life, but all these activities can wreak havoc on your wallet.
So your best bet is to set some limits. This is especially important if you have more than one child. Tell your child (or children) that they can pick one activity (two at most!), and that you’ll spring for the cost associated with it.
You might have to buy a uniform, purchase sporting equipment or just pay a social-activity fee. Whatever is involved, just remember: you can possibly cut your costs in half by limiting your child to just one activity instead of two or more.
Tip #2: Get a Sibling Discount
Another way to watch your school budget is to inquire about sibling discounts.
Many schools, public and private, are aware of the fact that it’s very expensive for parents to fund a lot of activities a pay a litany of fees for multiple children. So many schools offer discounts for a sibling, or even a third child.
Ask your kids to look into these — or better yet, you inquire about such discounts directly with school officials. A friendly school counselor, teacher or administrator may even tell you about little-know programs or special, reduced-payment options for large families.
Tip #3: Opt for the Freebies
Encourage your child to first scout out which activities and events are completely free – before they start looking into paid activities. Maybe there’s no cost to volunteer for certain social clubs, or perhaps it’s super cheap to be a member of the yearbook staff.
You’ll only know this once your kid (or your family) does a serious review of what each club, membership or activity entails.
So have your son or daughter write a list of, say, 5 things they’re interested in doing. Then tell your child to approach their teachers, coaches, etc. and ask about costs associated with each activity.
If your kid is dying to get involved with something, that’s great. But be sure to have them sign up for at least one thing that’s free to do. A freebie can wind up saving you $100 or more.
Tip# 4: Don’t Follow the Herd
Many school fees are either optional or they involve “suggested” or “recommended” amounts that someone else wants you to pay.
For example, that first, second or third fundraiser — or the suggested donation to your kids’ various teachers are all optional. Also, some school PTA fees are established as “minimum” amounts, but then the PTA suggests that you can offer more.
I’m not saying to blow off the PTA. But when you choose to contribute, or to make a donation to any school cause, don’t feel obliged to adhere to some “minimum” amount simply because that’s what others are giving. Do what’s comfortable and reasonable for your family budget. And don’t feel guilty about it.
The overall goal in sending your kid to school is to give your child a great education. And it won’t do you or your offspring any good if you wind up in the poor house over a litany or “extra” school fees that could have been avoided or reduced.