How Much Will It Cost to Send Your Kid Back to School This Fall?

September 19, 2023

If you’re a parent, your kid-related budgeting questions never seem to end, do they? As September approaches, the big looming question is: what will the price tag be this year for your kid’s education? Some expenses are to be expected. Others can catch you by surprise and vary from one family to another.

Yes, there’s a lot of budgeting to consider as the kiddo heads back to school:

  • New clothing
  • Lunch money
  • Classroom expenses
  • Laptops and other items used at home
  • Field trips
  • Unexpected educational items
  • Sporting expenses such as uniforms
  • Transportation

If you’re used to the drill, you’ve likely found many ways to cut corners, from re-using pens, paper and markers to sharing items with other families concerned about making ends meet. At some point you will probably wonder: how much is this all going to cost?

What Will Illinois Parents Spend on School Supplies This Year?

According to K-12 Dive, a recent survey showed that Chicago parents this year actually expect to spend less than usual – at $597 per household, a full 10 percent less than what they spent last year on school-related items. Not bad if you’re looking for a silver lining.

But $500 or more on kids’ school supplies is a big expense to prepare for each year. It’s particularly tough for parents who are already struggling to cover other monthly expenses. There is a fairly broad range in terms of what families set aside for in their budget for the cost of their children’s education. The truth is that most parents don’t budget quite that much for each child and still find a way to cover their expenses for the school year.

It’s also important to consider the bigger picture. What’s been difficult for many folks is that the total amount parents are spending on back-to-school expenses in Chicago has gone up by more than 50 percent over the last ten years. This probably stems from general rising costs in recent years.

There Are Many Ways to Get Help Covering K-12 Expenses

It’s important for parents to reach out for help if they’re concerned about covering needed educational expenses. Do an online search or ask at your local school to find out about community organizations such as Back 2 School America that can help.

In addition, you can find ways to shave down on the costs of supplies, and many do. Some are:

  • Looking for sales
  • Compare-shopping for best prices
  • Using second-hand books and clothing
  • Re-using supplies that remain from the previous school year
  • Borrowing from other families
  • Asking teachers if some items are optional

Use Caution with Credit Cards – Consider Prepaid Debit Cards Instead

Some turn to credit cards, which certainly have lots of benefits, especially if you can afford to pay them off in full each month. But for others, the reality is a bit more complicated. Most people don’t pay off their entire bill each month – or on time if they do. It may be tempting to put your kid’s educational expenses on a card, but consider some of the potential pitfalls:

  1. Illusion of money you don’t have
  2. High interest rates
  3. Compounded interest leads to debt
  4. Easy to miss payment deadlines
  5. Unintentionally overspending
  6. Late fees add up

Instead, consider using a prepaid debit card on supplies and at school functions where cards are accepted. Teenagers can also have their own prepaid cards and use them – wisely! – for books, lunch and other necessary purchases. They can be a safer option for some families because you don’t get billed at all. You’re only spending money that’s already on them. And if you’re someone who has enough bills to think about and doesn’t want one more deadline getting on your nerves, this is one way to accomplish that goal.

Chicago’s South Suburban Currency Exchanges (SSCE) Can Help You with Personal Finances This Year

In addition to cashing checks and registering their vehicles, local residents can get a prepaid debit card through one of four South Suburban Currency Exchanges (SSCEs). Be sure to call first to ask about hours, availability, fees and other important details.

Visit your nearest SSCE location to pick up your prepaid debit card, Ventra card, or take care of other daily tasks. There are many auto and financial services to take advantage of, all in one convenient location!

Two students doing school work. A teacher is helping one of the students with their work.