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4 Ways to Make a "Back to School" Budget

June 14, 2018 | By Daniel Dewitt

As much as we’d like to put it off, that inevitable time of year always rolls around again at some point: the back to school season. Even though it means the kids will finally be back in school and college classes will soon resume, it can be hard to get excited about something you know will drain your wallet dry before all is said and done.

Instead of resigning yourself to this financial hit, why not budget beforehand so you’re ready for it this year? It’s easier than you think and can save you more money than you realize. But how do you make a budget that’s going to accurately reflect how much you’ll money you will need to cover your educational expenses. Here’s a simple 4 step guide to surviving the back to school season.

Know What Classes You’ll Be Taking

This is a bigger deal for college students then it is if you’re still in high school: the number of credits you’ll be taking for the upcoming semester can make the tuition you pay swing wildly from manageable to arm-and-a-leg territory. This is why it’s imperative to have the classes you’ll be taking worked out beforehand to better anticipate the cost.

Knowing what classes you’re going to be taking has a trickle-down effect on several other back to school costs: once your class schedule is finalized you’ll know which textbooks, lab fees and other supplies you’re going to need money for.

Know What You Can Do Without

Skimping on your education isn’t an option, but a lot of the things that go along with it are. Part of drafting a budget is cutting out those things you don’t need. Sure, a new book bag would be nice, but it isn’t a necessity. A new computer might run faster, but the one you have right now could probably last you another semester or two. The difference between wants and needs can be hard to distinguish, but learning the difference is vital to creating an education budget that works for you.

Know What Your Mid-Semester Money Options Are

This is an important point because it’ll determine how many things you will need to worry about before class starts: do you need to commit to big purchases now, for example, or can you wait and see if you’ll need them later in the year? The point of a budget is to plan ahead, and knowing what your future financial situation is going to be can only make that easier.

So what are your options for mid-semester funds? Will you be working during the semester? Are you willing to take out a car title loan if an emergency arises? Put money on credit cards? These are all important questions that you should grapple with before the semester starts, and anticipating possible expenses means you won’t be blindsided down the line.

Know Yourself

The final part of formulating a budget is knowing yourself. What exactly does that mean? It means knowing that you have flaws and recognizing areas of your character that need improvement. None of us are perfect, and we all have our quirks and shortcomings. The more honest and realistic you are about your spending and study habits, the more successful you will be in not just school, but life in general.

Once you’ve successfully navigated the back-to-school season, check out more of our money saving tips for getting through the winter break on a tight budget.