Is Your “Back to School” Budget Stretched? 18 Ways to Keep it UP!

elayne photoBy Elayne Pearson, Special Needs Safety/Preparedness Specialist, CAS

More than one mother recently confided that getting her children ready to enter school with its fees, clothes, and required items was a real financial burden—and those students weren’t even in high school yet.  I recalled those same September concerns years ago, knowing taxes were also due in November, and Christmas was just around the corner.  With four amazing daughters, including Heidi (our beautiful daughter with Down syndrome and late-onset autism) my husband Rod and I felt so blessed, but our budget and stress levels were very stretched. With Heidi’s special needs for good quality vitamins/food, calming craniosacral therapy appointments each week, and educational toys and more – my motto, “keep it up!” served us well. Today’s parents can live this way, too, with some of our common sense advice.

TIDY UP – One of the best money savers is keeping your home organized so important items don’t accidentally get damaged among the clutter, or lost, resulting in duplicate purchases. Individuals with autism often obsessively hold on to odd things, creating more chaos, so set boundaries.

BUY UP – Buy in bulk and when items go on sale, but if it’s packaged food, watch for an almost-expired date. You don’t want a bunch of peanut butter jars in the pantry that are going to go bad before you can eat them.

CLEAN UP –  After you use a tool such as a saw, or an appliance like a blender, clean it well and store it away from moisture, etc. and they should serve you for several years.

COOK UP –  Sure, it saves money, but if you’re not itching to “cook from scratch” please realize it’s much healthier for people with special needs, like our Heidi, who are often pretty allergy prone. Home cooking usually has much less chemical additives for color, flavor and preservatives, so it’s a true win/win.

BREW UP – Some folks use their tea bag twice to stretch their dime, so doubling up is another tip. I’ve discovered the healing effect of herbal teas, and really enjoy a nice mug of peppermint tea to pick me up, or licorice root tea to calm me down. Licorice root (not the red candy, but in capsule/tea form) is a natural adrenal support (our anxiety mechanism) and I believe this supplement helped reduce Heidi’s extreme anxiety.

CUT UP – Don’t be seduced by credit card offers on TV or mail. Consider “plastic surgery” on extra cards you already have—they actually make a great guitar pic.

ADD UP – Rod and I really wanted to give our children the same blessings we experienced of having our mom stay at home—and were willing to live sensibly on one income. When you actually add up the additional expenses of a mother committing to outside employment, it doesn’t usually make sense.

READ UP – Richard Paul Evans, author of The 5 Lessons a Millionaire Taught Me for Women advises couples considering the mother to enter the workforce to honestly add it all up: daycare, wardrobe, travel, and meal expenses. Plus, the second income creates additional taxes to owe—and may put you in a higher tax bracket. Analyze your money matters to determine if you are paying interest with debt, or earning it with savings and investments, etc.

DIVIDE UP – With the unhealthy super-sized portions at most eating establishments, Rod and I often opt to simply share a meal and it’s just right. If we each order, we take home leftovers for lunch the next day. To be healthier we just say no to dessert, soda pop, tobacco, alcohol, and drugs.

DOUBLE UP – Making a double batch of a casserole or other food and freezing one is easy and helps you avoid the temptation to spend money eating out. Just warm it up and dinner’s ready.

BUY UP – With so much waste, why go buy some new item, if something is great but not being used anymore? Thrift store shopping offers unique back-to-school clothing, inexpensive household items, and helpful books.

GROW UP – Maybe you can’t manage a full garden or orchard with your loved one with special needs, but a few large potted plants on the patio, porch, or apartment balcony can harvest some yummy, almost free, organic food.

OFFER UP – Rod and I have always tried to give a little something whenever there was a charity or fund-raiser. Even if your cash flow is at a trickle, you can donate time or volunteer items you do have, like extra paper products or distributing posters, etc. You’ll be blessed for serving.

PULL UP – Going to the movie theater is exciting, but remind your family you can pull up plenty of entertainment on YouTube, etc., on your computer without spending a penny. Consider putting the unused money in a decorated goal jar.

SEW UP –  I’m not saying we should sew denim pants or men’s dress shirts, that’s beyond anyone I know! Yet, sewing is a fun skill for your home, plus mending clothing is a real money saver.

SWAP UP –  Sometimes bartering with a friend or neighbor is a happy arrangement. There was a time I gave free haircuts to my friend’s kids in exchange for her teaching piano lessons to my girls.

WAIT UP – Patiently waiting for clearance sales for future birthday and wedding gifts is great, but before you tuck them away, perhaps label bags and keep them in a reasonable place so they’re not forgotten.

LOOK UP – One of the most important financial patterns we’ve implemented over the years is to study things out and pray over potentially large purchases, such as a new/used car, appliances, or buying/building a home. We seek vital guidance from a loving God above who wants us all to live in peace and not financial bondage when possible. Gratefully, it’s paid off for us, and I hope these ideas help you, too.

Keep it up!

Elayne Pearson, Special Needs Safety/Preparedness Specialist, recently presented at the of the National Autism Society of America Convention.

For speaking invitations, email:[email protected]

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