According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), surveyed families are expecting to spend more money on back to school items this year – particularly technology – to make it through partial or full remote learning. If you have kids at home, here are 5 ways to plan it out and stay on budget:
Figure out what you truly need:
First things first, ask the school to clarify the plan and consult the official supply list. Here are some questions to ask: will the school provide tablets or devices, or must each family provide these on their own? What remote learning platforms will be used? Can students submit their assignments electronically or do they need to print hard copies of their assignments? Does the school or city offer any support that you can use, such as devices for families that need them, free or reduced cost Wifi or Wifi hotspots?
Assess what you have:
No matter the size of your living space, strive to create a learning zone and separate home and school as much as possible. This is a fabulous time to clean up, organize, and de-clutter your home (and while doing it, put your office supply items in one spot so when you shop for school supplies you know what you have). You don’t necessarily need a brand new desk setup; for example, if using common space like the dining table, get each student a sturdy moveable bin or bag that they can pack up at the end of each day. If you need to provide your student with a computer or tablet, see if you can use what you already have at home before you invest in new technology.
Set your budget and make a list:
Once you have a better sense of what you actually need, determine what funds you can actually spend. If you don’t have a budget yet, now is a great time to make one (and we are here to support you)! Ensure that you can cover your monthly fixed and variable expenses with your available monthly income, and then see what’s left over. While paying by debit or cash are always best, if you must use your credit card, use the lowest interest rate option and pay it off when the statement is due. And if you didn’t budget for new technology or supplies, see if you can get creative with your funding. Is there a trip you saved for that you won’t be able to go on this year? Are you budgeting less for commuting costs? It’s always better to borrow from yourself than from a credit card! Just make sure to pay back your funds that you borrow from!
Prioritize functionality and durability:
Ensure your home space is equipped to handle everyone working remotely – particularly if this requires the technology you have to function better. Upgrade your internet speed, get Wifi boosters to enhance the signal throughout your home, or use your hotspot during your work Zoom calls. Do a technology clean up on what you’ll be using before you start – delete files, run updates and back up your systems. Get an all-in-one printer/scanner/copier to support multiple functions at home. If your child does have to go back to school, ensure you send them with durable items. This is not the year to get a delicate sequin covered backpack if you’d like to regularly wash it. The same goes for items that will come in contact with surfaces and others often – choose washable cloth face masks, plastic coated folders/notebooks to wipe down easily and cotton clothes you can wash on hot.
Once you’ve determined what is truly necessary, shop around. You’ll need to find a balance between quality and budget here – you likely won’t need the most expensive option, but the cheapest choice may not be the best either. Use rewards programs, coupons, promo code apps (like Honey), and get cash back online (using services like Ratuken). Scan fliers and price match where you can. Consider refurbished models if they make sense (though get it from a reputable dealer). And for items like desks or office chairs, see if Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace (with safely distanced pickup) has any options.
This is a challenging time for everyone. Ensure you are setting your space and your students up the right way without overspending. And remember that it’s okay if everyone just gets a passing grade this year (including you). Make a plan, control what you can, stay healthy and do your best!
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