My toddler starts her first day of playschool next week, and we’ve already done the whole “meet the teachers” song and dance. My little one also just started her brand new fall activity: ballet. All of these things signal a new autonomy for her; an independence that will usher in full-fledged childhood soon. This also includes (I’m assuming) even more extracurricular activities with her peers on the horizon.
These things cost money.
The lazy summer spoiled me – fun stuff like hooking up the sprinkler outside, taking my kid to the park and the public pool, the occasional snow cone… those things were all free. Now, with the school year kicking into full swing, the bills have come calling, and the extra money threw us for a loop since we were grossly underprepared for the additional costs.
Back to School: It Costs More Than You Think
Everyone knows that school supplies are a given. There’s backpacks, pencils, notebooks, Kleenex, rulers, crayons, glue… the list goes on and on. Thankfully, my kid is still toddler-esque, so we got away with only needing to purchase hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes. But springing for extra supplies looms heavy in our future as my children grow older.
Other costs are a real budget killer, too. You’re responsible for tuition if you place your child in private school, and most people have to cough up money for fees even if they choose public schooling. For extracurricular activities, like my child’s ballet class, we were faced with registration fees and fees for recital costumes right off the bat.
Then there’s the gear. School-aged kids need new clothes and shoes. Many schools now require those attending to wear uniforms. Extracurricular activities necessitate a barrage of accessories all their own– ballet shoes, baseball bats and catcher’s mitts, karate outfits, etc. It’s mindboggling… and if you have multiple children that need these things? Well, let’s just say you can kiss your mad money goodbye.
One more expense that’s unseen – gas. During the summer, we save lots on fuel since we’re not driving many places. Once fall kicks in, it’s a different ballgame. I play the role of dedicated chauffeur and my gas bill suffers as a result.
How to Prepare for the Fall
So what’s an overextended parent to do?
After I had kids, I learned real fast that preparedness is the single best way to stave off trouble. Example: I pack lunches and figure out outfits the night before, well, anything nowadays. I dread nothing more than hectic mornings with everyone running around wild and late arrivals simply because we couldn’t get it together fast enough to make it out the door at a reasonable time.
Same goes for budgeting for upcoming fall expenses. From now on, at the beginning of the year, we’re socking away a little extra in savings for “back to school” money. Now, we think of it like budgeting for Christmas – it’s a necessary expense that we’ll have to pay either way, so best to plan and chunk money into savings instead of slapping it on a credit card and paying it down all year.