Stop us if this sounds too familiar; your child or children are back in school, you’ve done everything possible to save money on clothes, school supplies, lunch items and so forth. Perhaps you’ve even seen our informative article on how to save money during back-to-school season. Sure, you had to spend a little extra, but you managed to get everything taken care, of. Then, the kids come home with notifications; they need money for lab fees, physical education activities and who knows how many other expenses that are being passed on to parents these days. You remember when you went to school and the only extra fees were for extracurricular activities like little league and so forth. Worse still, these fees aren’t optional. If your child is taking biology this semester, then the lab fees are due or the grades will be withheld.
We understand. All those taxes and bonds are supposed to be paying for public education but somehow there are always extra expenses that pop up at the worst time, and you cannot bear the thought of potentially depriving your child of the same education all the other kids are getting. It’s frustrating beyond words, and you don’t know how you will come up with the money after all the back-to-school expenses that came in August.
First and foremost, if you do have a limited income, don’t be afraid to check with the school for any assistance programs. Every school will have someone prepared to help you with footing the unexpected school fees. Many people don’t know about these programs because they don’t know to ask or sometimes can be self-conscious about the issue. If you think of it in terms of being all about the kids, then it doesn’t have to be something that requires you to swallow your pride (and if you ever do feel like the school faculty member assigned to help you is being condescending, don’t be afraid to register a complaint with administrators).
Secondly, look at charter schools in your area. This doesn’t necessarily mean your child has to leave the school they’ve grown up in with their friends. Many charter schools offer the same - and in many cases better – classes and programs wherein your child can go to the charter school part time, and the public school for the rest of the day. Many public school districts have come to see charter schools as a way to relieve the burden on what feels like to many is an already overburdened school system. Most charter schools have their own websites (run by students as part of their education), so you can search of them online. Get their contact numbers and call to see if they offer the same kinds of classes and programs that your child is being charged a fee for at the public school.
Find out if your child’s school district offers independent online classes in the subject in question. Obviously physical education can’t be done online. But many school districts will exchange a full day of school for some time spent at home studying online. This also has come to represent a burden relief for school districts and many children benefit from having a parent help them with their work, instead of just their homework. Call your local school district and find out what online programs might be available. Often, these programs will coincide with the necessary requirements for admission to the local college or university, which can be very beneficial for your child.
OK, so those are what we might call the “supply side” aspect of school fees and how to save money on them. Now let’s look at what the demand looks like in these cases, and how you can prepare for the unexpected.
Of course, the best way to prepare is to be prepared. It may be too late to save some money on this year’s fees, but now you know they will come again next year. Set a budget where you can take keep enough out to cover these fees when they roll around again and you won’t be caught off guard. Believe us, we understand that you might forget from one year to the next; life tend to keep you occupied and thinking of the next problem that needs to be dealt with. So write yourself a note, e-mail yourself, send yourself a delayed text that will get to you in the middle of next summer so you can include school fees in the back-to-school expenses. Even a post-it note on your fridge will help you keep it in mind throughout the current school year so you will be ready for the next one.
Call Your Local School District
Another way to save money is to call your local school district and find out if you can purchase any necessary equipment yourself. Find out what the physical education fees are for, and if they’re for things like shorts and a t-shirt, or a softball glove, ask the school district if you can go ahead and buy what your child needs, then hit the sales.
Look for Bargains
Speaking of sales, keep an eye out for off season bargains such as winter clothing in the early spring. This would also fall under budgeting for back-to-school expenses, of course, but sometimes you can get things like hockey skates for a good bargain in March, or a basketball in the middle of summer (sales tend to spike right after the championship in June, then drop off sharply, so they’re put on sale in August or right around then). Need baseball cleats? Keep an eye out for sales of those in the middle of winter. You get the idea.
Finally, if you’ve tried absolutely everything and still notice you’re coming up short, come see us at CASH 1 for a small short-term installment loan or even a title loan to help cover those unexpected school fees. We can work with you to loan you just the right amount so you won’t feel too burdened, but also to help you cover those fees for your child’s school activities. Because there are few things more important than your child’s education. But you knew that.