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How Long Island Parents Can Prepare for Back-to-School Spending Amidst the COVID Pandemic

back-to-school covid spending

Back-to-school is going to look very different this year. This fact, along with the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on families’ finances, could greatly affect how back-to-school spending as the fall approaches.

Leslie H. Tayne, Esq., founder and head attorney at Tayne Law Group, P.C., was featured on News12 Long Island with Stone Grissom discussing how Long Island parents can prepare for back-to-school spending amidst the financial uncertainty of the COVID pandemic. 

More than ever, it’s crucial to have a plan when tackling your back-to-school shopping. And there are even more factors in play this year.

Consider the school’s learning model

Across the country, schools are employing various learning models, from fully in-person school to fully virtual to some hybrid of the two. Most Long Island public schools have announced plans to go back fully in-person, but some private schools will be employing a hybrid model. 

The mode of learning your child will be in – at least initially – can impact how much you spend this back-to-school season. According to WalletHub’s 2020 Back-to-School report, 71% of parents said their attitude towards back-to-school spending has changed this year as a result of COVID, and 44% said they planned to spend less this year than they did last year.

If your child is doing any in-person learning, you’ll be faced with a brand new back-to-school expense – masks. In the same vein, many schools are requiring families to bring certain supplies that schools typically provide so that all students have their own and aren’t sharing with others. 

If your child will be doing completely virtual learning or a hybrid model, you may be spending less on new clothes or traditional school supplies. However, if your child is doing any virtual learning and the school doesn’t provide a reliable device, you may be shelling out money for technology or higher bandwidth internet for your home. It’s also important to remember that even if your child’s school isn’t beginning the year in a virtual model, the possibility of moving to remote learning is still present. Therefore, you may consider including some technology in your back-to-school spending either way. 

Assess your family’s financial situation

According to Forbes, as of July 16, about 51 million Americans had applied for unemployment since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, and that new unemployment applications surpassed 1 million every week for 17 straight weeks. Additionally, the extra $600 per week that was part of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program ended on July 31. Therefore, many families may be struggling this summer as a result of COVID, which may also have an impact on what your back-to-school spending looks like – or on whether you do any shopping at all. In fact, WalletHub’s survey showed that 1 in 20 parents won’t do any back-to-school shopping this year. 

Budget accordingly

Keeping learning models and your family’s financial situation in mind, create a back-to-school budget. Make a list of the materials your children need and prioritize the list from absolutely necessary to a nice addition. Take a look at your finances to determine how much you’re comfortable spending. Then compare the list to your budget to get an idea of how much you’d be able to spend on each item and which items may not fit into the budget. 

Talk to your kids

School is going to look very different for children this year. In addition to having conversations about the protocols in place, you may also consider talking to your children about back-to-school shopping looking different. Conversations will depend on the age of your children. Discussing why your children need fewer or different supplies this year can help them understand. You may also need to be honest if your family is struggling. You don’t need to go into great detail, but explaining that you need to go to work to make money can be a simple way to convey the situation. 

Find ways to save

Regardless of what you’re buying or how much you’re buying, finding ways to save on back-to-school spending can benefit everyone, especially this year. 

  • Do your research: Comparison shopping is always beneficial at back-to-school time, but it will be especially important this year. Scan stores back-to-school ads and look online to see what retailers have the best prices. Additionally, think out of the box – for example, grocery stores may have some supplies at lower prices than box stores.
  • “Trendy” usually means expensive: Kids often want the trendiest items, whether it’s clothes, school supplies, or electronics. It can be difficult to avoid giving into them, but standing your ground will be especially important this year. With electronics, in particular, your child may be pressuring you into buying the coolest device. But once again, doing your research can help you find a less expensive device that will serve your child just as well.
  • Hold yourself accountable (and have the kids help!): Once you’ve set a budget for back-to-school spending, stick to it. Consider taking out cash in the amount you’re willing to spend, if you’re shopping in person. If not, keep careful track of how much you’re spending and how much you have left. Get your kids in on it, by telling them how much you can spend on particular items. This can be a great budgeting lesson for them, as well as give them some freedom of choice. 

Look for resources in the community

If money is tight this back-to-school season, you’re not alone. Often, community organizations will accept donations of school supplies to give to families who need them. Check local churches, school districts, libraries, thrift stores, and charitable organizations, such as the Salvation Army, for donations.

The most effective way to handle back-to-school spending this year, even amidst the uncertainty of the COVID pandemic, is to have a plan. And like schools have had to do, you may benefit from having a few contingency plans as well. Preparing for various scenarios can prevent you from facing unexpected expenses. This is a back-to-school season unlike we’ve ever seen before. As a result, we have to prepare in ways we never have.

But remember you’re not alone. Every family is facing this new reality. And if like many families, you’re struggling this year, Tayne Law Group, P.C. is here for you. Our debt professionals can help you adjust your budget and manage debt. Call us for a free consultation at 866-890-7337 or fill out our short contact form and we’ll get in touch!

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