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  • Bethany Johnson

Has Back to School Shopping Left You Broke? Tips for Getting Back on Track – Now

Whether your kids are in preschool, college or anywhere in between, you know that back to school responsibilities can be expensive. In a consumer spending report published by CNBC this summer, the National Retail Federation estimates the average family spends well over $600 for back-to-school supplies and electronics.

Once the kids are back in a routine, you might feel left like you’ll never dig out financially.

Thankfully, you’re not powerless. Here are a handful of things you can do to recover.

Get kids’ buy-in. When it comes to school activities, resolve not to dig yourself into further financial trouble by attending every book fair, extracurricular field trip, or new sport the kids want to try.

Instead, try this: let your children set the budget. Allot each child a certain amount to spend on school activities and sports equipment for the entire year. This lets them decide what is most important to them, instead of starting an argument every time an interesting activity comes up. If you’re not blowing the budget on every after-school program that pops up on your radar, you’ll have the wiggle room needed to recover from back-to-school spending.

Cut down on monthly costs. In the fall season, many things can be done to lower your monthly bills that cannot be done in other months:

  • Visit pumpkin patches, local football games and fall festivals instead of hitting the movie theater.

  • Turn the furnace on for a quick test run to ensure it’s in working order. Then, turn it off and see how long you can go before “needing” to turn it on this fall. Make it a game -- who can go the longest without complaining? If kids fuss about the new indoor temperature, have them layer up with all the new clothing items they just bought!

  • Get crafty. Fight the temptation to buy fall decor and instead, celebrate autumn by dusting off the glue gun and creating seasonal wreaths, centerpieces and artwork yourself.

  • Have kids ride the bus, hitch a ride, bike, or walk to school. Fuel is a major monthly household expenditure, and the more you can cut down, the quicker you can rebound from the financial hit of buying school supplies.

  • Suspend your gym membership and exercise outdoors. Imagine low humidity, the beautiful colors, and leaves crunching beneath your feet.

Have older kids help with payments. If you paid for back-to-school supplies with a credit card, tackle that debt with everything you’ve got, so that you don’t end up paying double for each item as interest accrues. Older students can help by getting a part-time job, especially if some of the supplies you bought for them were bought for fashion’s sake, and not out of necessity. Kids who are afraid of missing out on social interactions by working can be reminded that a local gig with a diverse workforce can be a great source of lasting friendships.

Invest wisely. While it’s painful to spend any money now, a few small investments might actually help you recover from back-to-school expenses. Here’s how:

  • Do your own basic weather proofing. Cover windows and doors with a simple insulator kit for just a few bucks, a move that may save you hundreds.

  • Check the roof and gutters. Critters and leaks that are addressed before the winter season will cost much less than in January when contractors’ phones are ringing nonstop.

Watching your checking account balance drain (or worse, your credit card balance climb!) during back to school season can be discouraging, but with these tips and some self-discipline, you’ll be out of the red in no time. For more tips and financial help, look to your friends at CESI Solutions, today!

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