Financially preparing for back-to-school expenses during the pandemic

From in-person expense planning to costs for virtual learning, check out these financial tips for back-to-school planning
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For many parents, August marks the start of back-to-school planning. While this year is no different, the preparations have changed due to the pandemic as the logistics of children returning to the classroom are more complicated than usual.

While you may not yet know if your children will be learning virtually or in-person, there are still ways to financially prepare for related expenses.

In-person expense planning

With the need to minimize contact and the sharing of supplies, basic school supplies like pencils, folders, crayons, rulers and glue are even more important this year, and so are safety items like masks and hand sanitizer. According to the National Retail Federation, the average American family plans to spend $789.49 on school supplies, which is up nearly $100 compared to last year.

Costs for virtual learning

As our communities continue to reel from the coronavirus, many schools are embracing virtual learning full-time, or creating contingency plans in the event of COVID cases impacting attendance. Hopefully the school district will provide the necessary technology your students’ needs, but in the event they don’t, it is important to be prepared for this added cost. Tablets and laptops can run from $330 – $1,300 depending on the brand you select. You might also want to consider different tools such as timers, planners or apps that can help your student stay focused and manage his or her time.

Creating a designated study space for your student at home could also cost some money. Desks and chairs can get pricey so look for ways to creatively reuse furniture you already have, or scout for deals and sales. If these extra expenses are not part of your monthly budget, start small and buy one thing at a time. Make a list of what your student needs and work it in your monthly costs as you can.

Unforeseen costs

In addition to planning for back-to-school costs—regardless of how schools will operate—it’s also important to refresh your finances related to personal costs related to insurance, at-home medical supplies and cleaning materials. Many students will be due for their annual medical physicals. Check in on your medical benefits to see if the preventative care for your student is covered or which clinics will offer back-to-school physicals.

Depending on your student’s after school activities, you might also need to plan for the costs of new gear and supplies. Be sure to talk with teachers and coaches regularly to know if activities are happening this year and what precautions you need to take to keep your child healthy.

Your grocery bill might also change during this atypical school year. You might need to spend more money on groceries to account for eating most meals and snacks at home. Or you might need to buy additional items for your child to safely eat lunch at school without requiring them to use communal supplies.

No question: the 2020 school year will be a novel experience for children, parents and school staff. Stay financially prepared for whatever is ahead by considering the costs for both in-person and virtual learning and building your budget early.

Wendel Abby Abby Wendel is the president of consumer banking at UMB Bank.

Categories: Business Insights, COVID-19, Finance