How to Prep Your Budget for the Back to School Season

Students all across the world shifted to remote learning over a year ago because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. This shift had a sudden and dramatic effect on families’ childcare needs, and combined with other effects of the pandemic, like possible losses of parents’ income, many families were forced to make similarly sudden changes to their family budgets. 

As a new school year approaches, families can expect to update their budgets once again as students begin (or have already begun) to transition back to in-person learning. 

If you’re looking for a refresher on some expenses you might need to plan for this upcoming school year, or some guidance on how you might consider updating your budget as your child heads back to school, this guide is for you.

Basics you might buy

If your kids will be learning in person this upcoming school year, then it’s likely they won’t be able to get away with continuing to wear the ever-so-slightly-too-small t-shirts and stretchy pants they outgrew last year. Since they’ll no longer be hidden by the screen, they’ll probably need some new post-pandemic clothes.

In addition to new clothing, it’s likely you’ll also have to buy something in the way of general school supplies, equipment or materials for extracurriculars, or even electronics. These are pretty much the basics of back to school shopping. This might all sound like a lot, so it really helps to get ahead by setting aside money each month so that you’re prepared when it comes time to actually make these purchases. 

Exactly how you’ll spend really depends on what your kids’ needs are, whether or not you’ll have access to hand-me-downs, etc. And you’ll obviously spend less if your child’s school covers some of these costs. For example, some schools by default provide things like notebooks and pencils, which might mean you pay less overall on supplies.

No matter your situation, now’s the time to start thinking about how much you have available for these kinds of things. If you don’t already have money set aside, take a look at your budget and see where you have some extra that you can redirect towards back to school expenses. And, if your kids are old enough and working (or receive allowance), it’s also reasonable to ask them to help cover some expenses too. You can chat with them to come to an agreement about what they’ll be expected to cover and for how much. 


Depending on your specific life situation, you may have had to adjust your childcare budget up or down because of the pandemic. For those folks who could work from home while kids were doing online learning, it’s likely that their childcare spending went down to practically nothing. However, for others, childcare costs went up as schools were closed but parents still needed to go to work. 

Regardless, it is important to note your specific childcare needs will likely start shifting again, and it’s helpful to start thinking about how they will impact your budget. 

If your kids are still learning from home (for a full or partial day) while you’re headed back to work, then consider that in your budget. If your kids are also heading back to school, then you might spend time thinking about how you can redirect those childcare dollars to some other area of your budget. 

Transportation costs

You might have saved a little bit of money each month by not having to drive kids to school while they were learning from home. Expect that your transportation costs will go up again as schools reopen. 

Of course, this won’t apply to everyone. Some folks have kids that can drive themselves, take the bus, walk, or ride bikes. But if you plan to regularly drive kids to school, or even need to do some back and forth between work and home to help take care of kids, then be prepared to spend a little more in this area. 

Food costs

Just like childcare, your food costs may go up or down depending on where or how your child will be getting meals during the week. For example, if your kids will be eating more meals at school, then you might reasonably expect your grocery budget to decrease a bit. If your kids will be taking packed lunches to school, on the other hand, then your grocery budget might not change that much. However, packed lunches could increase your budget depending on which kinds of food they generally pack. 

Regardless, take some time to think through what adjustments you might make to your food budget as your kids head back to school. If you think your food budget will increase, think about what other kinds of changes you might need to make so that there’s room for that increase. On the flip side, if you expect that your budget will decrease as kids head back to school, consider how you might use that money somewhere else in your budget. 


With these things in mind, you’ll be a bit more prepared for the coming expenses. And if you haven’t already, use an Annual Envelope in Goodbudget to help you save up for back to school expenses next year. 

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