How to Build a Homeschool Budget
No matter where you’re going, it is always important to count the cost. The journey of homeschooling is no exception.
At first glance, you might think your cost calculation begins and ends with the cost of the curriculum. In reality, there are many factors at play that can impact homeschool expenses. Those many factors account for a wide variance in the total cost spent. When surveying homeschool families, it is common to hear the cost per year per child reported as being anywhere from $200 to $2000. With this in mind, it helps us see, that if you feel called to homeschool, careful budgeting skills are going to be important.
Consider the following five areas as a starting place for building your homeschool budget:
This one is the most obvious, but the cost here can range from free to over a thousand dollars per child per year. If the fear of the cost of curriculum holds you back from choosing to homeschool despite feeling called to do so, put that to rest knowing that you can choose high quality home education that fits your budget. If you’d like tips on saving money in this area, check out this article.
Another obvious cost to homeschool is school supplies. This is one area where homeschooling can have the potential for a financial advantage over public or private school. While you can create a school room in your home complete with decor and desks, it is not necessary. Consider if you will need manipulatives, flashcards, a printer, a white board, a laptop, or other office equipment. The need for these items will be based largely on the curriculum you choose. More than likely, you won’t need to purchase new supplies each year. According to the National Retail Federation, public school families spend around $800 per year on supplies. This can add up to big savings for homeschoolers by removing the need for new backpacks, lunchboxes, folders, and binders each year.
You may think this doesn’t fall under homeschool budgeting. Technically, you might be right, but it is something that a lot of new-to-homeschool families forget to consider. Granted, the financially impact will be different for each family. Some families who can receive free or reduced lunches at school will see an increase in costs for food at the grocery store. Other families who are used to buying school breakfasts and lunches may find they save money by staying home. Still others may find this area to be equal no matter the schooling option they choose. It is important to think through your food plan and budget. Will your kitchen be “open” all day for children (and adults) to eat when they like, or will you have set meal and snack times? Will you prepare new meals for lunch, have the children prepare their own lunch, or reheat dinner leftovers? Whatever your choices are, make sure you have accounted for the adjustments in your food budget.
Remember back in March of 2020 when we all had to stay home? Suddenly, everyone’s utility bills increased, and adjustments had to be made. Some of us stayed working from home and those adjusted utility bills became the new normal. If you have always stayed at home with your children, homeschooling may not require you to adjust your utilities budget. However, if you are new to homeschooling, and you are not in the habit of staying at home most days with your children, then you will need to consider an adjustment to your utilities budget as you count the cost of homeschool.
5. Extra-curricular activities and field trips
It is typical in public and private schools for all the students to participate in a variety of special interest learning areas such as drama, music, art, P.E., and technology. When you homeschool, it is up to you how many of these special interest areas you will study and how deeply. For example, if your child is already taking piano lessons, you most likely wouldn’t need to add music education into your homeschool budget. If your student has had no exposure to music education, and that is something you desire for them, then you will need to budget in a class or curriculum for this area.
The same concept applies to field trips. It is up to you to decide if you will take field trips or not. If you decide to take field trips, you get to decide where and how often you will go. Many places offer homeschool days with cheaper rates so you can plan accordingly and consider if you will need to add things like museum tickets or zoo memberships to your homeschool budget.
Building a homeschool budget for the first time can feel like a tricky task but when you carefully count the cost, you can build an accurate homeschool budget that will set you up for a year of success.
About the author: Tammy Gipson is a wife and mom seeking to enjoy Jesus and increase her family's enjoyment of Jesus. A former public school educator turned homeschool mom, she has a deep desire to make disciples of the next generation through her time homeschooling and through her service at church. She and her husband Jacob partner together as the Awana Ministries Directors at their church. Her hobbies include saving money, studying the Bible, fixing old cars, and watching sports.