DebtHammer Newsletter #8: The Tools You Need to Become Debt-Free

School is just around the corner, so if you haven’t started gearing up for it, now’s the time. For a lot of parents, this year is more important than ever. Not only is the cost of school supplies going up but, with recent events, there’s also the safety of your child to consider. With that in mind, here are a few things to think about (and do) as the school year approaches.

In the news: School safety (and what you can do)

Let’s start with school safety. This has always been priority number one for parents, but with COVID-19 and the recent tragedies, it’s more important than ever to be proactive. And that starts with knowing what’s going on and what you can do about it.

So, what’s happening?

According to USA Today, there have been a staggering 193 school shootings in the 2021 to 2022 academic year. This is far higher than in previous years.

Debthammer recently took a back-to-school survey and found that, of those surveyed, 60% of parents are most afraid of another mass shooting at their child’s school. Following closely behind at 54% was the fear of a COVID-19 resurgence. Third on the list was campus violence at 39%.

Undoubtedly, the global pandemic combined with the recent tragedies and violence has contributed to this.

So, what can you do about it?

If you’re a parent (or a family member) with kids going back to school, there are a few things you can do to help — and keep informed.

One way is to educate your young loved ones on the different ways to handle an emergency, should it arise. This includes safely getting out of potentially violent situations, learning the best way to respond in a lockdown, and following other safety rules and guidelines. It also means teaching them when it’s okay to break the rules if it means they’ll be safe, especially if they find themselves alone in a scary situation.

As a parent, you can also be proactive. Learn about your child’s school’s stance on things like bullying and visitors on campus. Check with the administration to see what they’re doing to prepare students for potentially dangerous situations.

Finally, keep open communication between yourself, your child, and any staff members. Make sure everyone’s on the same page about what’s going on and any expectations you might have. Create a safe space for your child to air out any fears or discomfort they might have about their school, classes, or fellow students.

Looking for a few specific resources on school safety? Check out Save the Children, an organization dedicated to the safety of children.

Don’t have a safety plan yet? Maybe it’s time to create one…

If you don’t already have a safety plan, now’s a good time to make one. It can include things like:

  • What to do in case of an emergency or specific situations (ex. school shooting or bullying)
  • Which adults in the building to rely on
  • Safe rooms in the school and places to go in an emergency

Safety often comes in numbers, so consider working with other parents to foster a larger, safe network for everyone.

Looking for ways to save? Here are some options…

Most schools provide students and parents with a list of mandatory and optional supplies needed for the upcoming year. These lists can seem rather daunting, especially since many of these supplies need to be replaced each year.

That’s where these great ways of reducing your financial burden — and saving money — come in:

  • Shop for deals online: You could save a lot of money by looking for deals, sales, or back-to-school specials online. Some storefront locations have these, too, especially if you shop early or late in the academic year.
  • Check the local dollar store: Many dollar stores have supplies for, well, a dollar. This includes things like pens, pencils, highlighters, notebooks, and binders.
  • Go for quality: Certain items, like three-ring binders, lunchboxes, backpacks, and pencil organizers, can be reused year after year. Look for durable supplies so you don’t need to buy them again next year.
  • Buy in bulk: School supplies don’t last forever, but that doesn’t mean you can’t buy in bulk. If you have more than one school-aged kid or need a lot of something (like pencils), buy in bulk.
  • Share with other parents: Got adult friends with kids in school? See if they have too many of one thing that they can give you. In exchange, give them something they need that you don’t.
  • Budget and shop tactically: Make a personal budget and stick to it. Try not to go beyond what you need, even if there’s a deal. Also, take advantage of any coupons, browser extensions, or cashback cards to get more discounts while shopping.
  • Regroup and reorganize: Before shopping, check around the house (and in the closet) for any supplies you already have. Round up everything from previous years and reuse what you can.
  • Avoid excess and compromise: It might be tempting to give your kid the works — novelty items, themed notebooks, stickers, multicolored pens, etc. But if you’re on a budget, this can do more harm than good. If your son or daughter wants something, compromise with them and see if you can find a cheaper alternative.
  • Shop throughout the year: Back-to-school sales don’t always occur simultaneously. Keep an eye out throughout the year and catch those deals when they happen. You could save quite a bit this way.
  • Rent what you can: One of the biggest school expenses is textbooks. If you rent these on sites like Chegg or Amazon, you can get your child what they need without breaking the bank.

Looking ahead…

According to the Debthammer survey, around 34% of parents don’t have the necessary funds to pay for the mandatory school supplies for their child. Many families have to turn to credit cards to cover these expenses. It’s no wonder, though, considering some school supplies top $100 apiece. If possible, try to plan ahead and set up a sharing and borrowing system with other parents.

As for school safety, the best thing you can do is stay proactive. Get involved with your child’s school, establish a safety plan, and keep communication open.

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