Back-to-School During the Pandemic is Costing Parents More Money, Survey Finds
A new survey shows that more than 50 percent of parents are dealing with additional financial stressors this back-to-school season.
Kids going back to school in 2020 has given parents across the country a lot to think about. There’s the big decision on whether or not to send kids to in-person learning or to keep them home and assist with virtual learning. But regardless of their choice, many parents are also worrying about the financial repercussions.
Fifty-one perfect of parents are facing additional financial stressors during this back-to-school season, according to a new online survey from insurance company Country Financial, which looked at 1,330 adults, including 578 parents with kids under 18.
The survey found 26 percent of parents are worried about increased food costs as their kids return to school. That’s especially true for parents whose children are sticking to virtual classes in the midst of the pandemic. That makes sense as grocery prices are rising and the National School Lunch Program was serving about 30 million children each day prior to the pandemic while the School Breakfast Program served about 14.7 million. Those meals were free or at reduced cost.
In the meantime, 21 percent of parents are concerned about buying new technology—a bigger issue for parents of kids who are doing hybrid learning or homeschooling. And 13 percent of parents are fretting over increases in child care. Those with kids under 5 are even worried about losing their jobs because of lack of child care.
What's worse? These parents are expecting to pay an additional $500 a month to cover the extra costs.
And that’s on top of difficult decisions parents have already had to make during the pandemic. The survey found 21 percent have reduced or changed work hours to be home with their kids; 19 percent are leaning more on family and/or friends for child care; 7 percent have left a job completely; and 8 percent have switched to homeschooling.
"Parents in particular have felt the financial impacts of the pandemic. Our survey found that 22 percent of parents say that COVID-19 has impacted their ability to pay bills, compared to 12 percent of non-parents," says Troy Frerichs, the vice president of investment services at Country Financial. And 56 percent of parents are delaying or canceling short-term and long-term plans, including taking a vacation, doing home repairs, and buying a home.
Parents with adult children aren’t free from the burden either. Sixty-five percent of parents with kids 18 or older have had to help them out financially during the pandemic, with 21 percent saying their adult child has moved in with them.
It hasn't been easy for parents, that's no secret. But Frerichs suggests focusing on budgeting and cutting costs as much as parents are able to. "If you are struggling to pay the bills, start by looking at how much you have coming in and how much you have going out and then cutting out unnecessary expenses," he says. Parents can look into reducing costs of back-to-school supplies by checking out retailers that offer great deals like Amazon.com, Walmart.com, Target.com, and opt for refurbished tech devices, which can save parents hundreds, as Bankrate points out.
And always be open with family members so everyone is on the same page. "Have those honest conversations with your spouse and family now versus later to prevent accruing debt," adds Frerichs.
Anna Halkidis is the features editor at Parents.com. Keep up with her on Twitter.