5 Steps to a Bust-Proof Back to School Budget

It's August already and you're probably thinking, "How did that happen?" Summer is sliding away and you're nowhere near ready to transition to the scurry of the school year. Believe me, I get it.

Stores began selling school supplies in June, but you weren't ready to face the music--and the budget--then. But like it or not, the school year is fast approaching. 

 Here are some tips to help get those kids back into the game - without breaking the bank! 

Step One: Prepare for your expenses

If you are surprised by your credit card statements in mid-September each year, you're not alone. If you make a budget, that is, a plan for your spending, you're adding a layer of mindfulness to the season that can help manage this surprise. Bringing awareness to your spending versus your estimates is a great first step.

This handy calculator will help you prepare for the expenses (multiplied by the children involved) that go along with the back-to-school rush. (Click here to visit the Back to School Budget Calculator) 

Step Two: Make a list and check it twice.

Your kids need shoes, sports gear, notebooks, and then there's the fees and tuition.

Don't you have a clipboard in a drawer somewhere? Do the kids' pants from last year still fit? Now is a great time to take inventory of what you need and what you might already have. 

Shop your closet before you hit the stores or consider hosting a supply swap with friends. I guarantee someone has a graphing calculator or some soccer cleats they're never going to use again!

Armed with this list, you can hit the stores confident that you're buying doubles of anything!

And speaking of stores... 

Step Three: Take advantage of sales!

I know I just told you to shop your house, but this is a great time to buy those school supplies that you really need. Often door-buster deals will be deeply discounted, so it's a great time to stock up on things you'll use all year long.  Make your money go further by shopping sales and sticking to the list you made in Step Two.

Whether you shop till you drop or buy online and stick to a list, use this time as a teachable moment for your kids about money. Maybe you have extra money in your supply budget, so you pick up items to help a less-fortunate child, or maybe you have the kids re-evaluate whether they really need that new backpack or if the old one can hold on for one more year.

Step Four: Worth the wait.

Some things just aren't great to buy in August, like jeans and winter coats. If you're not sure that they will even fit in 3 months when it's cold enough to wear them, consider waiting on that purchase. 

Step Five: Review and Plan Ahead

Once the dust settles, take a moment to tally up your back-to-school expenses and compare it to your budgeted amount. How'd you do?

If you have sticker shock, remember you can save all year for this! Back-to-school time is reliably the same time every year. Take your total back-to-school expenses from this year and divide that number by twelve, then set aside that amount monthly so you're prepared for next year. Don't let it sneak up on you!

A little advanced planning can ease the transition from vacation mode to the back-to-school schedule, and all the associated costs. Happy budgeting!