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Finding Financial Balance

Are you ready for back-to-school expenses?

school supplies

Right now is the time of year that kids are getting ready to return to the classroom. For some, this is a welcome excitement; for others, this may be an unprepared expense. Going back to school may bring some financial challenges, but you can account for them in a well-planned budget. Are there registration, book, and activity fees when your children start school? Have you purchased all the needed school supplies? Do your kids need snacks to bring to school? Have they outgrown their clothes and shoes from last fall? It may be helpful to plan ahead when you know that these expenses come up each year at the beginning of school. When creating a spending plan, it is important to keep in mind all expenses throughout the year, even if they are only seasonal, like with some back-to-school costs. 

Back-to-School Shopping

Have you done all your back-to-school shopping? If you purchase supplies based on a list, be sure to comparison shop for the best prices. Another way to save is to check for unused or lightly used supplies from the previous year. Some supplies, such as scissors, are reused year after year and do not need to be repurchased. There is no “right” or “best” way to get your supplies, but children need supplies for school each year, and this should be considered in your financial plan. If you are in need, there may be options for finding supplies for free. Check with your school or local organizations that may provide back-to-school supplies to those in need.

Are your kids interested in band, athletics, or clubs? Sometimes these extracurricular activities can also be costly. In addition to registration fees, some activities may require special shoes or equipment purchases. When planning your spending, it is important to keep all costs in mind to avoid unexpected expenses that keep your budget from being balanced.


Reading is essential for all ages. Even if children are not old enough for school, there may be ways to help them prepare for lifelong learning. For those with children under the age of five, there is a free book program sponsored by Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. The program is currently available for residents of Clinton, Jefferson, Marion, and Washington counties. The Imagination Library provides free books to children from birth to age five, regardless of income. This is a way to acquire some books for your child without any cost to you. The current list of books available includes some options offered in Spanish as well.

Also, local libraries may have free programs for children throughout the year. Take advantage of local programs and show your children how to borrow books. Many libraries in Illinois share books. If you are interested in a book unavailable locally, the librarians can help you order them online to be delivered to your local library.

For those of you preparing for Back-to-School, keep your budget in mind and plan for these expenses in your annual spending plan moving forward.


Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. (2023). Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

Meet the Author


Jamie Mahlandt is a financial educator for Bond, Clinton, Jefferson, Marion, and Washington counties in Southern Illinois. She provides financial education to the local community with an emphasis on financial literacy and financial well-being.