Back-to-School Countdown Day 2: Build a Budget for Back-to-School

back-to-school budget

Getting ready for back-to-school with the Organized Home Back-to-School Countdown? It's Day 2 ... and time to hang on to your wallet!

No doubt about it, outfitting the family for a new school year can be a pricey enterprise. Shoes, clothes and school supplies are only the beginning of the financial outlay.

Today's parents must add fees imposed by cash-strapped school districts, shared hygiene supplies and deposits for band instruments.

Sports and extracurricular activities impose their own drain on family funds ... and behind it all, the children have a long list of must-have items for the first day of school.

How to hold the line on seasonal spending? Build a back-to-school budget to stay on top of school expenses ... and save.

Better, setting a budget for school spending offers important lessons for the young learners in your life. Here's how to create a back-to-school budget and use it to make good decisions as you prepare for the first day of school.

Calculate the bottom line

A budget is a mighty tool for redirecting spending, but it doesn't appear out of thin air! To create a back-to-school budget, you'll want to total up every school-related expense you'll need to meet in the coming weeks. Once you can see the bottom line, you'll have the information you need to set priorities and get creative about spending decisions.

Using pencil and paper (or our printable Back-To-School Budget planner), list every expense you can anticipate.

Allocate an amount for clothing and shoes. Review supply lists and school communications, check in with sports teams, and look back a last year's spending. List it all, every penny you think you need to spend for school.

Ready? Time to face up to the bottom line. Add all items on your list to get the family's grand total for back-to-school spending.

Then take a deep breath, because now you're empowered to bring that number back down to earth!

Shop at home, first

Now that you've got your budget roughed out, it's time to cut costs. The first and easiest way to stretch your budget is to shop at home, first.

Armed with supply lists and your shopping list, scour your home for usable items. Will last year's lunchbox make it through another year? Have children try on coats, gym clothes and athletic shoes before you shop. Check stocks of school supplies.

Shopping at home first gives the best of all price breaks: it's free! Remove any home-bought items from your lists, and reduce your budget accordingly.

Hold a family meeting

Now that you know the bottom line, and you've trimmed it by locating any usable items you already have, it's time to bring the family on-board.

Sharing the back-to-school budget with your children is a powerful method of bringing them back to shopping reality.

First, the total number seems very, very large--and makes a big impression on young minds. Write the total budget amount on a whiteboard or piece of paper, so that everyone is aware of it.

Then, make it real. For multi-child families, divide that number by the number of children. Noting a per-child limit on spending helps focus budget discussions and gives children a buy-in to the process.