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Budgeting for Back-to-School

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If you’re a parent, you know that this time of year is unbelievably hectic. From yearly physicals and dental appointments to getting your kids and yourself back on a regular routine, there are so many additional things on our to-do lists and tasks to stress about.

The financial implications of getting kids ready to go back to school is often an additional stressor for parents. When you’ve just taken a big family vacation and paid for summer camp, how do you juggle the financial headaches of back-to-school?

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If you’re feeling the strain, financially or otherwise, please know that you’re not alone. According to the National Retail Federation, back-to-school spending for K-12 schools and college is projected to reach a record $82.8 billion this year. Yes, Billion with a “B”.

While that number sounds completely overwhelming, there are a few ways you can relieve financial stress this time of year. Here are a few tips to help you reduce stress and stay on budget during the back-to-school season:

  • Prepare a detailed budget...and then stick to it. Yes, you’ve probably heard this one before. How many times have you thought about creating a budget but haven’t taken the time to do it? It’s just another item on your long to-do list. I recommend planning out every expense for the month on paper, including back-to-school expenses, and then writing down each expenditure as it happens to stay on track. If you have a realistic monthly budget that you actually commit to following, it will allow you to live a more peaceful life from a financial standpoint. If you need a budget worksheet to get started, I’m happy to send one your way so you have no excuses. Simply visit my website, www.emilygstroud.com, and enter your email address when prompted. Then I’ll personally send you a FREE copy of my online budget planner that’s normally reserved just for clients.
  • Get your kids in on the action. Let your kids help you with the back-to-school budget by allowing them to look through the ads for sales, track your spending at the store, and take inventory of what they have and what they still need. We all have to make choices in life, especially about how we spend our money. I believe this exercise will help teach your child valuable life skills by allowing them to make some decisions on their own. For example, if your son really wants a more expensive backpack than what you have budgeted for, then he will have to reduce spending somewhere else. He then may choose less expensive tennis shoes in order to have the backpack he really wants. Name brand items usually cost more. Encourage your kids to communicate to you what is important and what’s not important to them. I promise this will make back-to-school shopping more fun for everyone!
  • Don’t spend needlessly. I believe it’s important to pause before you actually go shopping to take stock of why and how you’re spending your hard-earned money. If you’re aware of the way your brain responds to shopping, it can help you make sense of the highs and lows of impulse buying. This is often referred to as retail therapy. Believe it or not, your brain actually releases dopamine at the sight of beautiful store displays and even the thought of acquiring new stuff.

If you follow these tips and really stick to your budget, I promise you will be set up for success as your kids head back to the classroom.

For more tips on planning for your financial future, pick up a copy of my newest book, “Faithful Finance: 10 Secrets to Move from Fearful Insecurity to Confident Control.” “Faithful Finance” is my practical guide, revealing ten life-changing secrets that work in every financial situation, for every income level, at every stage of life.

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