How to Plan for Back to School Expenses in a Time of COVID-19

  • August 12, 2020
  • By: Greenpath Financial Wellness

As families track the latest news about their communities K-12 reopening plans, it’s clear this is a school year like no other – especially as families plan for back to school expenses.

Will students return in the classroom? Will a K-12 student school year involve a mix of online and in-class learning? Or will school districts mandate that the school year be online, virtual learning?

A national organization that monitors retail activity shows that households tentatively plan to spend a record amount to prepare students for school and college. If districts aren’t providing laptops, many families will buy laptops and computer accessories in anticipation that at least some classes will take place online because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The retail survey shows that parents with children in elementary school through high school anticipate spending an average of $789.49 per family, topping the previous record of $696.70 they said they would spend last year.

While it isn’t a typical year when it comes to back to school shopping tips, with the right information, families can reduce their stress.

6 Steps to Plan for Back to School Expenses

The good news is that with a little planning, you can successfully manage  additional expenses even in the midst of a pandemic.

As you plan for back to school expenses, shared here are six steps you can take.

1. Check in with your school district.

Whether preparing for online or in person, be sure your spending plan reflects what technology tools might be needed. Watch the news or local websites to keep tabs on what your district is planning for back to school. Check with your district if they will be providing school-aged children with laptops or other technology.

2. Think about your spending plan.

The pandemic has changed household finances, given unexpected loss or changes in monthly income. GreenPath’s budgeting worksheet is a great way to get a handle on the situation in terms of tracking income against expenses. Once you have a good handle on your current financial state, determine how much you truly feel comfortable spending.

Align Your Priorities

Thinking back to school? Plan your spending and create an action plan for paying your bills.


3. Is it a “want” or a “need?”

Prioritize your needs list. What do you need to buy before school starts and what can you purchase later?

When thinking about virtual learning, does the family already have access to high-speed internet and a family computer, or are these items that need to be purchased? Will your district provide needed technology? What really needs to be replaced or what can be reused?

If new clothes are a need, watch for sales or online stores offering the most competitive pricing.

4. Avoid impulse buys.

Whether heading to the computer store to support online learning or buying a new backpack, stick with the plan.

Make it a family affair. Write out the shopping list together. If the kids want something that isn’t in the budget, offer them the option to chip in their own money.

Look at school shopping as an opportunity to get kids more involved or even suggest spending more of their own money on back-to-school supplies.

5. Watch those credit card balances.

If you use a consumer credit card, keep a close tab on the balances. This can be a simple process of assembling printed receipts in an envelope after each shopping outing. That way you’ll have a clear reminder of the credit card balances as they are incurred.

6. Consider teaming with a helpful resource.

Families looking for additional support before they head to the stores this fall have another option.

GreenPath’s professional, caring Financial Wellness Experts will assist you in assessing your financial situation and guide you to create a personalized plan to achieve your goals.

GreenPath works with thousands of people each week to pay off debt, improve credit, and lead a financially healthy life. When looking ahead to an uncertain school year, it’s helpful to start a conversation with a GreenPath a Financial Expert.

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