Manage Your Money

Back-to-School Costs – CORONA Edition

School is different this year – and it’ll have a different effect on your wallet as well. While there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to back to school costs, here’s what to consider this year as back-to-school time approaches.


Public vs Private vs Homeschool Costs

How you educate your children affects how you spend your money. Your children may have always attended public school but, like me, you may have chosen a different approach to schooling this year. Perhaps you are immunocompromised, or your child is. Or maybe there’s another reason you’ve chosen not to send your child to public school this year!

If you’re homeschooling, your head may be swimming with what supplies to buy, what curriculums to use, and what to do (and if those are your concerns, I highly recommend the Focus Time course by The Parenting Junkie. This binge-worthy course will explain what you don’t need to spend your money on, explain how to meet core standards in under an hour a day, and give you a sense of relief that is priceless! #notsponsored, just in love.)

For children heading to school, whether private or public, the amount parents spend will depend on the type of school they choose for their child and what their child’s teacher requires of them. Some kids are asked to bring just a box of Kleenex and others are asked to buy a full supply list.

But when it comes to back to school costs, there is so much beyond school supplies that families should consider. I was recently interviewed by the Winnipeg Free Press to discuss this topic but had so much more to say, that I wrote this article.



2020 Back To School Costs


    First, there is the cost of tuition for private or independent schools.


    Then there’s the cost of transporting your child to school. Will you have to pay for bussing? Public transportation? Will you drive your kids to school and have you considered the increased cost of fuel?


    What type of clothing will your child require? Are you a name-brand person or happy with the more budget-friendly clothes? Some will have to purchase uniforms, others who are schooling outdoors more this year should consider all of the appropriate outdoor gear.

  4. PPE

    I imagine every child will have a little hand sanitizer hanging from their backpack this year. Many divisions are requiring some children to wear masks on busses and in hallways. You KNOW those are going to go missing faster than a wet glove in spring! Add in the costs of multiple masks and sanitizers.


    Will you be paying for childcare before or after school? What about during the lunch hour – is there a cost to stay at school? Have you considered the cost of hot lunches and field trips?


    Many teachers purchase the classroom supplies and ask for a sum at the beginning of the year. Do your children have a classroom fee? Also, many schools request that families fundraise throughout the year, or pay a donation in lieu of fundraising. What does that look like for your wallet?


    If your child is required to bring their own supplies, that’s a whole other list of expenses that will vary depending on the brand and store you buy from. Then, of course, there are the backpacks, the lunch kits, the water bottles, and the fancy name labels for all clothing and lunch items!


    You didn’t think I’d stop there, did you? Being a student in a school means so much spent outside of the classroom! Will your children participate in any extracurricular activities? What about the teacher gifts, the holiday concert outfits, the birthday parties…  We’ve got gifts to buy for others, a birthday party to throw for our children, gift wrap and cards – you know this list could go on forever…


    You may have multiple weeks where your child is required to stay home from school. What costs come with that? Will you have to miss work or pay for childcare if this happens?


How Much Money Will Your Family Need This Year?

Add up everything you can think of in the “school” category – what is this school year going to cost you?

For us this year, our school costs for one child includes tuition and supplies, clothing, backpacks, some new lunch supplies, water bottles, and an increase in fuel to drive to school. We’re looking at just under $8000.

For a typical public school year, school-related costs were closer to $1400 per child for us.

The cost is significantly higher for us this year, but we feel the benefits are worth the costs.


How to Save Money on School Costs

This year, preparation is key. No one could have prepared us for the 2020 we’ve had, but we can do what we need to do to financially prepare going forward. Here’s how.

Consider all of the costs associated with going to school for the year, add them up, and divide by 12 months.

This is the amount you’ll want to save each month starting now so that you’re prepared financially for the next school year.


What?! But what about the costs for this year?


Now that you know you have to save $XX every month just to have what you need for the next school year, it’ll reign you in when shopping for this school year.

So for the 2020 school year, here you go.


How To Cut Back On School Costs This Year: 

  • INVENTORY – Before you tackle back to school shopping, take an inventory of what you have already.
  • CLOTHING – Layout outfits by size and season. Do you have more than enough already? Where are your gaps and do you need to fill those gaps now, or can you buy later?
  • OFF-SEASON SHOPPING – Summer is ending and warm weather clothes have headed into clearance. What can you buy now to prevent full-price shopping again in the spring?
  • ORGANIZE – Ever end up with way too many kids’ clothes because you have no idea what you already have? Gather that winter gear you’ve got, gather what lunch kits and Tupperware you already have, and make a list of what you have and still need. Organization is vital if you want to spend as little as possible. No sense buying multiples just because your kids winter clothes explode out of the closet and you can’t find that neckwarmer. Have a place for everything (a simple bucket for each child might work) and prepare your space for the new school year.


Anticipate What’s Coming (as best you can, anyway!)

While we don’t know what the future holds this year, especially around health and schooling, expect the worst and hope for the best. That’s my motto this year. Anticipate, as best you can, what is coming up this year and prepare yourself financially.


What other tips can you share to save money on back-to school shopping? Would love to hear them in the comments below!


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