Budget for back to school – 5 tips for students and parents

Well, it’s that time of year again. You may recall me providing these tips in my blog of the same title last year, but a few things have changed since then. We now have two children going to university, which means things will be quieter around the house, and I will get my car back.

Thanks to the Blue Jays playoff run last year, my son Parker was out of money by December. (I think my Christmas stocking had a hole in it.) So he had to get a job. The budgeting talk/lecture he received obviously didn’t resonate.

While we are still proud of both of them, the drives to York, and now Ottawa, will be exciting once again for me and my wife Alison. Two out and two to go! Here are a few ways that we’ve worked with our children to help minimize upcoming school costs.

1. Is it a need or a want? – I want an F-150 Pickup Truck. My wife argues that I don’t need one. The quality knapsack that you bought your child last year is probably still very functional. If the straps are good, the zipper still works and there are no holes in it, make do.

2. Fuel – Reduce that carbon footprint! If your son or daughter can walk, ride their bike or take the bus to school, that’s preferable to giving or lending them a car. This will help save both your wallet and the environment. My dad walked two miles to school “up hill, both ways, everyday!”

3. Supplies – Waiting a couple of weeks into September before buying the needed school supplies will usually result in some savings, as stores will be looking to clean out inventory by then. The big box stores are your best bet for these deals.

4. Two bank accounts – Have your college or university-bound child get two bank accounts. One for essentials like rent, food, books and tuition and the other for entertainment and holidays. Split the money in the accounts according to your budget.

5. Pay your credit card on time – Long ago, I remember getting my very first credit card while a first year university student (if you had a pulse, a certain bank was willing to give you a card). My credit limit was only $500 but it was a good lesson on how important it is to pay it on time, so as to establish a good credit rating and not pay any non-deductible interest costs.

Whatever your budgeting plan, the key is to work with your kids to make them part of the process. This will help reinforce good financial habits, and keep you on track with your financial goals.

Terry Willis, T.E. Wealth

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