Back-to-School Expenses in the Age of COVID-19
As federal, state and local authorities continue to debate how best to get kids back to school safely this year, one thing is certain: it’s going to look and feel different than it ever has before. The annual rituals of shopping for backpacks, school supplies and first-day-of-school outfits is going to be replaced by a new kind of preparation. According to the annual spending survey from the National Retail Federation, families of K-12 students are planning to spend a record-setting $33.9 billion on back-to-school shopping this year. Let’s take a look at the back-to-school expenses to consider during COVID-19.
Computer Hardware & Accessories
Although plans are not final yet, it seems most elementary and high school districts are planning a combination of in-person and remote learning. That could mean investing in new laptops or tablets to help your children participate in remote learning. You’ll also want to make sure they have headphones or ear buds that allow them to hear clearly. And a functioning printer stocked with ink and paper should also be on your list. Computer manufacturers such as Apple, Dell and Lenovo offer discounts for college students. It’s likely some companies will expand those discounts to include purchases for younger students as well.
Many households have had their internet straining to keep up with the demands of kids doing remote schooling while parents are working from home. If you’ve noticed your internet speeds slowing down, you may need to set aside money in the budget to literally get it up to speed. It’s possible you need a new, more efficient,wireless router and/or strategically placed signal boosters to ensure everyone is able to get and stay online all day. You may also want to inquire with your provider about increasing your internet speed. And remember to turn off other smart appliances you aren’t using during the workday to lighten the demand and free up bandwidth.
When everyone abruptly turned to remote learning last spring, it was a matter of making do with what you had. Kitchen tables instantly became classrooms and workstations, and no one had any real space to learn and get work done. Now that you know what to expect, it’s time to create an environment conducive to learning. Consider investing in a dedicated school desk or table, with comfortable, ergonomic seating. Add a room divider screen for privacy and to create a clear marker of where the “classroom” begins. These one-time back-to-school expenses will go a long way toward ensuring your kids have a successful school year.
In addition to — or perhaps in place of — the usual notebooks, crayons, pens, pencils and other supplies, you’ll probably need to buy things you haven’t in years past. This may include art supplies, equipment and chemicals for science experiments and other necessities for hands-on remote learning. Your children’s teachers should send out lists of necessary supplies. Be sure to wait for those before you begin your shopping so you’re not buying things you don’t need.
Masks and Hand Sanitizer
Even if your kids only end up back in a physical classroom one or two days a week, masks and hand sanitizer are a must. In fact, kids should always have an extra mask in their backpack in case the one they’re wearing gets soiled or dirty. Target, Old Navy and other big box stores offer very affordable multi-packs of cloth masks. You’ll want to have several in rotation so there are always clean ones available. Additionally, you’ll want to send your kids to school with ample supplies of hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes so they can take the cleaning of their desk and work areas into their own hands.