Beating back-to-school expenses

Teacher and children with face mask back at school after covid-19 quarantine and lockdown, explaining.

For the many Nova Scotian parents who have been struggling financially as a result of the pandemic, a new school year brings a list of new expenses to manage. Many are unavoidable but there are ways to keep costs down.

Masks are mandatory for most students, so plan on having several on hand for each child. If your child is like most, they will either forget or lose their mask often. You may need to keep one in the backpack, one in the desk at school, and several replacements at home.

Disposable masks are relatively cheap if you buy in bulk but are only safe for one use. Over time this cost can add up and you should consider the environmental impact. Making your own washable and reusable masks can save money if you are crafty. (See this easy guide in East Coast Living). Using discounted material or material you already have at home also saves cash. Free reusable cloth masks are also still on offer at most Halifax public libraries and museums.     

While schools will offer hand sanitizer, most parents will likely send kids to school with a small dispenser of hand sanitizer in their backpack and maybe one for their desk in the classroom. Economize by buying a large container to refill smaller dispensers.

Cafeterias will likely remain closed, so lunch planning is critical. Talk to your kids about what they like (and what they hate). Children are more likely to eat the lunch if they participate in its planning. Plan lunches around leftovers or weekly food specials. Purchase seasonal produce for a more affordable healthy option. Research online for upcoming deals and plan accordingly. 

The 2019 school year ended abruptly, so chances are that you already have some school supplies. Take inventory before you hit the stores and shop with a list to avoid unnecessary impulse purchases. Can you reuse last year’s backpack, for example?

Watch for flyers and online sales. When you find good deals, consider stockpiling extras. It’s possible the classroom may move back to your house before the year is done. Online learning is easier if you already have supplies on hand.

With hurricane season underway and flu season not far off, you may find yourself housebound for non-pandemic reasons. You should have at least a 14 day supply of essential items including food. While you could stock pile extra non-perishable groceries now for a “just in case” scenario, you should also consider creating an emergency fund.

No matter what the coming months bring, you’ll be better off if you plan wisely now. You’ll never regret having savings and a good stockpile of essentials for school and home.

This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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