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Money Conversations: Get Your Wallet Ready for School

As the debates continue on whether to start the school year back in the classroom full-time, part-time or online, it’s a good idea to prepare for either scenario. Both part-time school schedule or in-home schooling could mean continued interrupted work schedules for parents and, consequently, lead to financial changes in your home.

Who could have thought just about a year ago that in a snap of fingers our day-to-day life could change so much? Even a habitual process such as our kids attending school is going to be so different now with the outbreak of COVID-19. Let’s be realistic: we need to be prepared not only emotionally, but financially as well. As the new school year is beginning in just a couple of days, here are some things to think about and reasons to set a few dollars aside:

If you have to work full time, you might have no choice but to hire a caretaker for your children. If you are able to stay home helping your child learn the curriculum, even under teachers’ guidance, it is hard enough. Give yourself a break and consider hiring a nanny or tutor to help out with schoolwork a few hours a week according to your budget.

Another option could be arranging for rotating work schedules and teaching chores with your spouse if your work allows such sort of flexibility.

If your employer would allow remote work, consider temporarily relocating your office to your desk at home. Of course, you’ll have to teach your kids to respect your work hours.

If you have been thinking about starting your own business, but have been reluctant for a long time, it may be a good time to start now. Extra bonus if your type of trade would not require a lot of physical contact. Think whether your area of expertise may have a good growth opportunity in these times. Maybe you can teach a skill online or build a website for someone. Today’s technology opportunities are limitless and being your own boss can mean flexibility of spending more time with your kids.

Whatever arrangement you undertake to accommodate the demands of the new school schedule, make sure you calculate the costs ahead of time and weigh all the options.

Going back to school means you will have to buy school supplies and clothes for your kids. For some families that might have become a traditional annual outing. Maybe it’s time to switch it up and try something new. Instead of going to shop, you might consider ordering the goods online and maybe even finding a few deals. Then substitute an outing with a game night or a camp out in the back yard.

Don’t forget to add such items as masks, hand sanitizer, disinfectants and immune-boosting vitamins to the shopping list and make sure you budget those items in for the next few months.

The final advice in these uncertain times would be to hold on to your savings. With social distancing and limited outings, it should be easier than ever to save. It is always a good idea to hold on to those extra few bucks even if that means brewing your own coffee at home. As financial counselors, we recommend having 3 to 6 months’ worth your living expenses saved up in an account that hopefully you won’t ever have to touch. It is still uncertain what magnitude this pandemic will take and which direction the economy will be moving in. You might be glad down the road you held on to those extra dollars.

JANE VAZQUEZ is a Certified Financial Counselor. She is a co-owner of a Mississippi-based company that provides services of financial consulting, bookkeeping, and tax return preparation, among others. You can reach her at www.srvcvazquez.com.

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