Back to school time can add a tremendous financial stress to many families.

Back to school fees, supplies, transportation costs, school lunches, and after school activities can all compound leaving families feel the financial pinch long after school begins.

Lisa Elle, Financial Planner/Owner of Ellements Group, says September is a love hate relationship for many parents. 

"Kids going back to school which is awesome, it is the love part for me. But the hate part is the endless money drain that September seems to bring along with it."

Elle adds it is all the little things combined that take the toll.

"It is so many things; it is not just the school fees, the school supplies, transportation, fun lunch, school trips, fundraising. Then it is also the extracurriculars: the dance class, the piano, the hockey; these are all things you need to prepare for. It gets hugely stressful when you have a huge amount of money due."

Elle shares back to school time is almost worse than Christmas and becomes increasingly difficult to budget for.

Elle lays out some valuable tools that parents can take advantage of.

  • Plan Ahead:"Write out a list of approximately what you think all the school bills due in the month of September will amount to, and total them up," Elle says. Grab a sticky note and once you have your total divide by 12. This becomes a monthly amount you can sock away each month, making you pro-active rather than reactive.
  • Create a free sub account for your kids: "Free e- accounts that they have. I nickname my account 'kids' and in this account I keep all the specific payments for my kids, so that it doesn't get pushed into the regular house hold expenses." Elle adds this way you do not run the risk of having your regular bills bounce or getting misplaced/ forgotten. 
  • Look for discounts on school supplies or reuse from last year: "Kids bring home so many supplies they haven't used or buy school supplies in October when on clearance for the next school year."
  • Research financial aid if you need it: Check into school subsidies or community programs such as Cochrane's Family Community Support Services if there are grants that your family may qualify for.
  • Pre-plan lunches: Map out what you need the week before to reduce your costs, avoid paying high costs at convenience stores or fast food places.
  • Start saving toward your RESP: Every little bit helps states Elle. "Make sure to start saving $50 or $100 a month to your child's RESP. The government will add 20% and some provincial governments add a few other bonuses, depending on where you live."
  • Get your kids involved:Have your children participate in adding up costs. Not only does this make your child aware of how much things costs but gets them started on budgeting and being fiscally responsible at a young age. "The word cost seems to have a negative connotation for most people, and kids pick up on that."

Elle adds while you may be too late to implement some tricks, she suggests starting now and pre-plan for fall of 2017.

"Going back to school and money in general, making those decisions ahead of time gets you to a place of less stress and who wants all this financial stress. No one needs to add financial stress because life has other problems in it."