As a parent with small kids, a friend of many other parents with children of their own, and the director of programs at SHIM, I know firsthand the struggles families face as summer comes to a close and school is in full swing almost immediately.
On top of just the sadness of summer ending and gearing up for cooler weather and shorter days, back-to-school time is expensive. And for families who are already on a tight budget, this time of the year can be even more stressful. School supplies have become increasingly costlier, along with new clothing, shoes, backpacks and more.
At SHIM, we support families in need with our Back-to-School Drive, and we appreciate everyone who contributed to making an impact this year. We sent more than 1,100 kids home with school supplies, ready for a successful year.
There are plenty of ways every family can be more budget-conscious during this time of year.
1. Commit to a budget. Begin with a budget for back-to-school supplies. Go as far as what you can afford to spend on activities, groceries, outfits, and more throughout the year. This is not an easy task, but you will be able to see the difference in your finances if you make a budget and stick to it.
2. Ask your kids’ teachers for a list. Instead of buying every school supply under the sun, be sure to stay organized and on track. The teacher might be able to provide you with a list of necessary items, and then once your child is back in the classroom, you can feel out what else they might need as the school year progresses.
3. Make a plan for meals. Whether it’s a packed lunch, a school-supplied meal, or healthy dinners at home, work on a list for each week’s meals that fits your pre-determined budget. This way, there is less food waste at the end of the week!
4. Swap with your friends. Communicate with your friends who also have kids in school and see what you can share or trade. Maybe their child is older and has school supplies your child needs or the other way around? This can be a great way to re-use and help a neighbor out.
5. Come to SHIM for a free NeighborWorks budget course. We’re introducing a new program here at SHIM at both SHIM Center and SHIM’s Family Center where our neighbors can receive budgeting, financial training and advice to tighten your current budget and spending or set you on a track to self-sufficiency. Stay tuned for more information on how you can attend an upcoming session.
After sending your kids back-to-school successfully, if you find you still have wiggle room in your budget, consider donating supplies, food or dollars to SHIM or another local nonprofit. There are many families in the South Hills who feel the impact on their finances during this time, and you might be able to help their children head back to school ready for success.
It’s important to remember that, even though heading back to school can be stressful, it’s also a very exciting and important time for kids to reunite with friends and get back to learning and developing. At SHIM, we’re wishing a successful and engaging school year to all our kids across the South Hills!
By Courtney Macurak, director of programs, SHIM