The 9 Things You Need to Budget for If You Have Kids in School

published Apr 28, 2019
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I’m a huge fan of forward-facing, zero-based budgeting. In a nutshell, this type of budgeting means that you tell your money what job it’s going to do, as opposed to spending money and then describing what you did with it.

A cornerstone of such budgeting systems is a concept often referred to as “sinking funds.” These are chunks of money saved for infrequent but regular (or irregular) expenses. Sinking funds keep your monthly budget from nosediving when large expenses come up, and tweaking sinking fund categories at the beginning of each year and when you come up with new savings goals, big or small, makes many things that might seem impossible within reach.

One type of expense that creeps up on me every single year, though, and that I’ve finally realized I need to budget for, is the conglomerate of little payments I need to make for items and activities related to my children’s school. If you have school-age children, consider adding up the following types of expenses, multiplied by the number of children you have and saving for them ahead of time:

1. Teachers’ gifts

We appreciate our teachers so much and love the opportunity to show them that. I try to get gift cards or other small gifts for our teachers for the holidays, their birthdays, and Teacher Appreciation week.

2. Donations to the classroom

I know that many teachers devote their own resources to outfit their classrooms and serve their students. Being able to contribute extra supplies or wish list items is a great way to support the men and women who care for and teach our children.

3. School supplies

Each child has that end-of-summer school supply list to shop from and the dollar amount can add up fast, especially if you’re shopping for more than one kid. Saving ahead of time makes this expense more manageable.

4. Fundraisers

No one wants to shortchange the school (or have their kid feel bad for falling short of their personal fundraising goal). Setting a little something aside helps this expense from feeling like a gouge in the pocketbook.

5. Field trips

When you kid is in younger grades, these may only cost a few dollars here and there, but we paid $170 for our fourth grader’s field trip (including the expense for one of us to chaperone), so that’s not an insignificant amount.

6. Book fair money

Maybe I’m weaker than most, but combine my kids asking for books to read and the opportunity to support the school, and I’m one big pushover. Budgeting ahead of time would keep me on budget.

7. School pictures

I do it as cheaply as I can by buying only a digital file and printing it myself, but individual pictures and classroom pictures do add up. And I don’t even buy yearbooks.

8. School-sponsored charity drives

We have several of these a year, such as the Peanut Butter and Jelly Drive and Jump Rope for Heart. I want the children to be able to participate and it’s much easier to do when there’s money set aside for it.

9. Birthday party gifts

Especially when kids are younger and birthday parties can be an almost weekly occurrence, the cost of these gifts can add up. One extra tip: Having some gifts on hand so you don’t have to go shopping so often.

What school expenses would you add to the list?