How to keep back-to-school time from busting your budget

As a #1 New York Times best-selling author, host of The Rachel Cruze Show, and The Rachel Cruze Show podcast, Rachel helps people learn the proper ways to handle money and stay out of debt.

By Rachel Cruze

I remember as I was growing up, I always thought school was free. I mean, I understood that private school costs money, but I went to public school, and I didn’t think a whole lot about the expenses associated with it.

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Now that I’m older, I realize how much parents actually spend on their kids when they go back to school. In fact, the National Retail Federation reports parents plan to spend $696 on back-to-school supplies this year. Isn’t that crazy?

There are the obvious school supplies like notebooks, markers (my favorite!), and backpacks. And as a kid, I always needed new clothes and shoes. But there’s not-so-obvious ones that nickel-and-dime you to death.

One of my coworkers told me that he had to buy football gear for his son that totaled $260. Understandably, it gave him a bit of sticker shock. There’s nothing wrong with paying for this kind of thing if you have the money, but you still need to have a plan for how you’re going to pay for it.

As the school year is gearing back up, it’s important to make a list of things you need to budget for. So, think about these categories and come up with a dollar amount you plan to spend in each one:

  • School supplies
  • Uniforms
  • Sports equipment
  • Fall clothes and shoes
  • Meal plans
  • Fees for clubs, sports, band, and other extracurricular activities

I’d like to point out that this is a great time of year to teach your kids that money isn’t in infinite supply. Teach them the value of working within a budget! They don’t need the trendy name-brand shoes, or the flashy notebook that costs more. You’re setting your kids up to win when they understand money can—and often does—run out.

Now, if you’ve already busted your back-to-school budget, here’s what you can do:

Get your budget back on track. Where can you cut back this month to make up for the overspending? Is there anything lying around the house you can sell? Can you pick up some extra hours at work?

Plan for future school expenses. Once school is back in session, there will be other costs that come up. School pictures, yearbooks, field trips and more extracurricular activities are just around the corner. And now you know how to get ahead of them!

I know paying for all these school expenses can feel overwhelming, but if you plan ahead and pay with cash, you’ll feel a lot better when September rolls around!

As a #1 New York Times best-selling author, host of The Rachel Cruze Show, and The Rachel Cruze Show podcast, Rachel helps people learn the proper ways to handle money and stay out of debt. She’s authored three best-selling books, including Love Your Life, Not Theirs and Smart Money Smart Kids, which she co-wrote with her father, Dave Ramsey. You can follow Cruze on Twitter and Instagram at @RachelCruze and online

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