This is the school year to catch up on learning, relationships, physical health and mental well-being so that after the effects of the pandemic, our children aren’t okay, they’re okay.
So here’s what I’m thinking – what if we, as parents, spent our back to school budget in a way that targeted the pillars of total wellbeing for our children. Instead of shopping for the latest back-to-school trends, you would shop based on what helps your child thrive physically, emotionally, spiritually, socially, intellectually, environmentally, and financially.
Let’s see some examples of how this would work… and yes, I have tips for saving too.
Getting active is at the core of your child’s overall well-being. Do they have a good pair of running shoes and comfortable clothes to work out in? Much of this can be found on sale, and junk from family, neighbors and friends is making a big comeback. Would your child benefit from seeing a nutritionist, dermatologist, or physical therapist (many benefit plans cover these costs, BTW)? Interested in participating in paid team sports? Do they need braces or other dental treatments? Is their bedroom conducive to getting a sound sleep every night? Are you leading by example when it comes to taking care of your physical health at home? Focus resources on essentials first, then see if you can budget for other costs throughout the year. If you have medical expenses that are not covered by insurance, you may be eligible for the medical treatment tax credit. So keep your receipts. And don’t forget to factor in often-overlooked physical well-being expenses like haircuts.
Emotional, spiritual and social well-being
This is about developing a healthy sense of self-esteem and a sense of belonging as your child builds connections with others and with themselves this school year. Would your child benefit from seeing a psychologist or self-esteem coach? Are there specific social outings or requests for paid activities that your child has that would help them form stronger social connections? There are many free and inexpensive group activities for kids these days, so check your community website. Do you have enough time to think every day? Do you need a diary? Would you benefit from enrolling? fewer extracurricular activities? Costs in this category can vary widely, but do your best to understand your child’s and family’s needs, and then prioritize what’s most important. And for mental health services, search Google for “subsidized mental health programs for children.”
Books, laptops, tablets, calculators, notebooks, pens and pencils. What’s on the delivery list? When is it needed (since you may be able to defer purchases if you don’t need it right away)? Are there any scholarships, grants or grants for this? Does your child need special support through tutoring or through the school system? Focus resources on your child’s tools and resources needs to do well in school … not the fanciest technique or the flashiest backpack. Before you shop, take stock of the supplies you already have and verify that your computer and software are appropriate for the upcoming school year. Compare prices, use coupons and buy what’s on sale. Use swap and sell sites to get rid of what you no longer need and replace it with this year’s requirements. And did you know you can save a bundle by stocking up on supplies in late September or early October? Maybe you can use up what you have in the first month and shop later in the fall.
This is about the physical environment in which your child learns. There’s not much you can change about the classroom setup, but your home learning environment is 100 percent under your control. Does your child have a quiet and comfortable place to do homework and reading? Is the lighting sufficient? Do you need a desk or chair? Are blinds required on the windows? Is there enough space for you to support your child if they need help? Would a monitor help with focus? How is the air quality? The idea here is to focus resources on a healthy home learning environment. Most items such as tables and chairs can be purchased on sale or used. And before you buy, check what you already have at home or borrow from a friend.
From the age of three, children develop an understanding of money matters. So, if it seems too soon to start building financial literacy into your family’s value system, it’s not. For younger children, start with an allowance — say, $1 for each year of age (e.g., $6 per week for a six-year-old). Open a savings account and let them save part of their allowance. Teach them how grocery store prices work. And allow them to host their own “flea market”. Encourage older children to work part-time and manage a basic budget, which means they should be responsible for some expenses like paying a cell phone bill. There are great money books, games and blogs that your kids will love. Perhaps you hold off on another scooter and focus your time and resources on helping them save for the future.
“Shouldn’t you give me a specific budget amount, Lesley-Anne?” You might be thinking.
The answer is that I don’t think it makes sense this year. Instead, focus the resources you have in your back-to-school budget on what makes your child(ren) healthy…and stay away from unnecessary debt. Debt will prevent you from supporting your children as much as possible.
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