When Your Child's School Asks You to Give, Give, Give
Parents, I know you're feeling the pull on your purse strings from you children's schools. You're being asked to contribute supplies to your children's classrooms (not just pencils and paper, but even cleaning supplies). You're expected to donate money to help with the schools' fundraisers. You're getting notes from teachers each week about this field trip or that art project you have to pay for if your children want to participate.
I know because I'm a parent with one child in a public school and one child in a private preschool. As president of the parent committee at one of my children's schools and vice-president of the parent-teacher organization at the other, I also know how much the schools need financial support from parents. So how do you balance your desire to help with the reality of your own limited funds -- and avoid looking like a cheapskate if you can't open your wallet every time the school asks?
Even though this is your child and his school we're talking about, you have to approach this like you would any other financial situation. You have to ...
Set a budget. If this is your child's first year in school, talk to his or teacher, parents with older children or members of the parent organization to get an idea of how much you'll be expected to spend on supplies, field trips, etc. or to contribute to fundraisers throughout the year. If your child is a returning student, you already have a pretty good idea. Once you have a dollar amount, it will be easier to figure out whether you can make room in your budget to help out your child's school. Our budget worksheet can help.
Prioritize. Of course the school, its parent committee and your child's teacher would love for you to donate every time they ask, but they also understand that not every parent can. So contribute only when it fits in your budget and when you feel like your contribution will have the most impact. That might mean skipping the chili-supper raffle in order to buy a coffee mug adorned with your child's art so his or her feelings don't get hurt.
Give your time. You might not be able to afford monetary contributions, but you can donate your time. Schools need volunteers to help in the classroom, cafeteria, you name it.
Please share your advice in the comment box below on how to handle requests from your child's school for supplies and contributions.