For many of us, the end of summer will always call to mind one thing: back-to-school. For those of us stuck anywhere between kindergarten and a Ph.D, it will mean it’s time to hit the books again. And for those whose formal education is a thing of a past, this time of year might signify a recommitment to structure and planning that occasionally gets lost in the lazy haze of summer.
The ABCs and 1,2,3’s
If you’re shopping for school supplies for a younger child, you’ll probably want to make it easier on yourself–and your wallet–by being as focused as possible. Making a list of immediate needs may help you save money by allowing you to wait on items they won’t need until later in the year, such as winter coats or sweaters. When you shop for those must-have items, you may want to think about shopping online in order to compare prices and avoid all those impulse buys that fill the stores during back-to-school sales.
If you must do your back-to-school shopping in an actual store, you may want to consider leaving the kids at home. Yes, back-to-school shopping is something that many children get excited about, but letting someone else watch them while you do the shopping will help you stick to that list of necessary items and avoid spending money on unplanned purchases.
At the end of your back-to-school shopping, you might want to see if there are any lessons to be learned. Perhaps you can start immediately putting away money for next year’s supplies to avoid paying it all at once. If your child is old enough to make his or her own money through a part time job, consider asking them to contribute to some part of their back-to-school fund. Perhaps they’d like to split the cost of a new pair of sneakers or pay for part of that tablet they’ve had their eye on for so long.
College or Bust
If you’re a parent sending a child off to college, it might be wise to make a check-list of responsible traits your child should display while away from home. After all, according to Jeff Livingston of McGraw-Hill Education, 25 percent of college freshmen drop out during their first year because they aren’t prepared for the academic, emotional and financial challenges that many students face when leaving home. You might be able to avoid this by going back to something we talk about a lot on the Ally Straight Talk blog: being prepared.
You’ll probably also want to make sure your college-bound child knows all about smart personal finance. One way to do this might be to help them set up a monthly budget that takes into consideration everything, from school supplies to how much money they’ll spend going out on the weekends. It might also be wise to go over their bank account with them and look for any areas where they may incur fees and help them try to avoid them. In addition, you may want to teach them the benefits of managing their time wisely in order to help them keep track of all the new demands they’ll surely end up facing.
The Great Beyond
Even if the fall season doesn’t find you setting foot in a classroom, this time of year can be perfect for rebooting personal finance initiatives you may have neglected during the summer months. The first step in doing this may be asking yourself exactly what it is you want to accomplish financially. Perhaps this summer you decided you wanted to rent a beach house next August. Or maybe you realized this really is the year you’re going to remodel your kitchen. After figuring out your priorities, you may want to sit down and make a list of your goals and set deadlines for when you’d like to accomplish them.
One of the best things about a new school year is that you get to start with a clean slate. While there’s no way to completely start over when it comes to your finances, you can get a copy of your credit report and give yourself a clear picture of your finances. You’ll most likely want to keep an eye out for any errors or inaccuracies so you can report them and see about having them removed. And while you’re at it, you may find that fall is the right time for getting into a spring-cleaning state of mind. After you’ve received your credit report, you may want to organize your financial files, including any passwords or records related to online banking or investing. And while you’re online, you might want to set up automatic bill pay to avoid missing any important payments because of your busy schedule.
How are you preparing to send a child back-to-school? Have you found that fall is a good time to reorganize your finances?