Back-To-School Budget Planning – Return to the Classroom Without Breaking the Bank

August 23, 2018

Classes are back in session in just a couple of weeks — have you started your back-to-school budget planning yet?

According to the Survey of Household Spending from Statistics Canada, the average household spent $1,502 on education in 2014, including tuition fees, education services (such as tutoring), textbooks, and school supplies.

An Angus-Reid poll found that in 2016, the average Canadian household spent $883 on back-to-school shopping, more than double what they spent in 2015. And that amount is only continuing to grow.

Between clothing, school supplies, textbooks, technology, and more, it seems that the back-to-school supply list is getting longer and longer each year — and subsequently more and more expensive.

To combat the trend, you need to make a back-to-school budget.

Consider the following money-saving tips:

  1. Ask What is Really Needed

Often, a school will provide a list of supplies that children need for the classroom, such as pencils, erasers, paper, etc. It’s safe to assume that those supplies are needed, but what about everything else?

Take a realistic look at what your children need for the school year. Do their old clothes still fit? If so, perhaps they only need one or two new items for September. Do they really need a new tablet or laptop for school or can they use a shared family resource? Weigh what is a must-have and what is just a nice-to-have.

  1. Look for Areas You Can Pare Back in Your Household Budget

If you don’t have money set aside in your household budget for back-to-school shopping, look for areas where you can save during the month of September. For instance, perhaps you typically spend $500 per month eating at restaurants or buying lunch at work. Can you cook at home instead or make your own lunch for the month?

Even simple changes can add up. If you spend $3 on a coffee every day cut out that habit for a month and you’ll have saved $90, which can go towards must-have school supplies.

  1. Involve Your Children in the Process

Your kids won’t necessarily like it if you tell them they can’t have that new tech gadget they’ve been yearning for. But if your children are older, get them involved in the household budget planning.

Show them how much money comes in each month and how much goes out, and how the extra back-to-school expenses affect the budget. This could be a valuable learning experience for them and encourage their own financial planning.

  1. Look for Deals and Neighbourhood Swaps

For those must-have purchases, consider your shopping options. Not everything needs to come from the most expensive stores. Dollar stores, thrift shops, Value Village, The Salvation Army, all of these (and more) have affordable options that are still attractive and functional. Does your child really need a $5 pack of sparkly pencils when a $1 pack of the traditional No. 2s will get the job done?

Also look for hand-me-down options, either from your own kids or family members, or in your neighbourhood. If one doesn’t exist, consider starting your own neighbourhood swap. This can be a great way to get expensive items, such as scientific calculators, for much less. You also might find deals online, such as Kijiji or Facebook Marketplace.

Ask your school administration, too, if they know of anything in the area. Sometimes they will organize swaps or know of funding that is available.

  1. Spread Out Purchases Throughout the Year

There may be items on your back-to-school list that are not necessarily needed at the start of the school year, but you can tell your child really wants them. Consider using this to your parenting advantage.

Throughout the year, set these items aside and give them as an incentive for work well done. If your child has put in a real effort at school, shown improvement, or done well on a test, you could pick an item off the list as a reward (like those sparkly pencils). This will allow you more time to budget and teach your child the value and rewards of hard work.

If your household debt is too overwhelming to fit in back-to-school shopping, that’s another matter entirely. In that case, Fuller Landau Debt Solutions can help you examine your options to make a plan for your back-to-school budgeting, debt consolidation, and more.

Contact us today to see how we can help. Call (416) 927-7200 or visit