As we head into September and the Back To School season, the wallets come out for all of those costs that come up. School fees, pizza days, sports uniforms, field trips and activities.
This is one of the most emotionally fraught topics around money with my clients – what to spend on their kids It might be nice to say yes to everything and have them want for nothing. However, it is not good for your wallet, or for your kids. When you are a business owner with variable income, it becomes even more important to create some boundaries around what you will commit to these costs so you can plan for them.
Many families make decisions about activities as they come up during the year which makes it much harder to plan, and can leave the wallet empty later in the year when new activities are introduced.
Here are three great steps to help your children consider their options, prioritize and make decisions about what they really want. Theses steps will help you manage the expectations and help them understand learn valuable skills including the value of money.
Set a School and Activity Budget
Decide how much you want to spend on Kids’ Activities including school costs for the year. You can do this in three ways:
- Add up what you spent last year and decide if you are willing to continue to spend the same amount or if it needs to be adjusted up or down based on what you can afford and want to spend.
- Choose a number based on your current money plan.
- Look at what the kids want to do and decide if you are willing to spend that amount.
Hold a Family Meeting
Meet with the kids and ask them what they want to do for school activities and after school activities and make a list. Find out how much each will cost. If your kids are old enough, get them to do the research online or in the brochures to gather the information.
Add up the school costs for the year including anticipated sports trips, field trips and in-school activities. Use this worksheet to help you add it up.
Add up the money involved for everything and compare it to your planned budget. Also, look at the time involved for the activities – it is realistic for your child? Does it leave time for school and free play?
Set Money Aside
Once you have a plan, take the total and divide it by 12. Begin to set that money aside each month so when the Spring and Summer activities come up the money will already be there to pay for them.
Creating a plan and involving your kids in the process creates a great opportunity for learning and decision-making – for you and for the kids.