Waco, TX – August 11, 2017 – Splashing around in the pool, sleeping in late and taking a break from math and science are the joys of summer for many children. However, lazy moments at the beach and no homework don’t last forever; those days will come to an end as students prepare to head back to school.

Before the classroom doors open, parents should prepare for school and college expenses. According to a recent study from Huntington Bank, school supplies and extracurricular activities for the 2015-16 school year cost an average of:

  • $650 for elementary school students.
  • $940 for middle school students.
  • $1,400 for high school students.

Here are several tips to help parents prepare for the upcoming school year:

  1. Shop early. Most schools offer a list of required school supplies and books your child will need. Contact your child’s school or visit the website to get the list and begin looking for sales and bargains before the summer ends.
  2. Inventory last year’s school supplies. Look in the bottom of those book bags and in your child’s room to see what supplies you already have, before going out to buy new items.
  3. Set a budget and stick to it. School clothes, sports and extracurricular activities can become costly if you don’t have a budget. Stay firm, stick to your budget and don’t waiver, no matter how cute the outfit is or how much your child begs to play that sport or instrument.

With so many families having to finance a college education with loans, good financial-management habits should begin before a student steps on campus. Securing the right type of loan can prove to be beneficial long after students earn their degree. According to a NeighborWorks survey, 36 percent of adults 18-34 years old say they still have student debt, as do 21 percent of adults 35-49. Alarmingly, 6 percent of adults 50-64 still are saddled with student loan debt. Some tips:

  1. Ask about hidden fees. In addition to tuition, there may be other charges. Ask about lab costs, books and resource charges, for example, to get an accurate idea of the funds needed per year for your child. According to the College Board, the annual cost of books and other course materials for an in-state college could exceed $1,200 each year.
  2. Complete the FAFSA (free application for federal student aid) early. This will help you determine the aid for which your child may qualify. Also check to see if your state offers any type of state grant or financial aid.
  3. Investigate loan types before you sign. Some states offer no-interest loans, which, if accepted by the school, can be a great alternative to a private loan. If taking out a parent-plus loan, be sure to borrow only the amount needed to cover the bill. Pay the interest accruing on all (private and federal) student loan accounts; this keeps debt from ballooning.
  4. Send bills home. Most schools now email bills to a student’s email account and do not send bills home. However, students often do not open the emails until they are told they have a balance to pay and can’t go to class. Parents should talk with their children about the importance of sending bills home.

Adhering to a back-to-school financial strategy helps parents reach their financial goals throughout the year. A NeighborWorks network member, such as NeighborWorks Waco, can help create a budget and set financial goals.