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Managing the high cost of high school
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Need cardboard? Grab a few boxes at the grocery store or other local merchant. Look around your home for items that can substitute for high-dollar crafty stuff: Old clothing and bedding can offer material, buttons, lace and trim. Dad's workshop yields paint, nails and leftover wood. Can students work in teams? If so, cut the cost by dividing it with other parents. If you must purchase supplies, stay away from expensive craft shops. Instead, check discount stores for your needs.

Don't forget to ask neighbors and friends for help. They might have just what you need in their garages -- or be willing to rev up their power saws to cut that plywood for you.

School supplies
Jan Bowman of Laurel, Md., says she had to buy both of her sons' graphing calculators. At $200 a pop, they're not cheap. Again, try eBay and pawn shops for used ones. If you end up purchasing a new one, watch for sales. Often there are attractive rebates for small electronic items at the beginning of the year. (Tip: Check out www.shoplocal.com to get a jump on sales in your area.)

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For paper, pens, book covers, notebooks and other supplies, buy in quantity after school has already started. Many suppliers drastically slash their prices. Stockpile the extras for use all year long.

Kay, mother of seven, believes kids become smart with money by participating in household finances. "Teens need to learn they don't have a free ride," she says. The Kays put their children on a budget for school supplies, clothes and school lunches. They monitor where the kids are with their money once every two weeks.

"The key to this budget is that they get to keep what they don't spend," she says. If they go over budget, they have to work it off. The result? "They don't break pencils in half when they're bored. They act more responsibly."

School pictures, class rings, graduation
If school pictures cost as much as furnishing the kid's bedroom, don't despair. The experts say you can end run those hefty prices. Here's how: The school photographer will take the yearbook picture, then offer you a pricey package of prints. Don't buy them. Instead, slash the cost by having your own photos taken at Sears, JCPenney or a local studio. You'll pay less and still have great pictures.

Simply because the school sells class rings doesn't mean you have to buy one from them. Retailers such as Wal-Mart offer inexpensive versions of the same rings for a fraction of the price.

Graduation expenses can be out of this world. If you have problems coming up with the money for a cap and gown, check to see if you can borrow one from a senior who has already walked down the aisle. If your school rents them and the price is too much for your budget, ask a counselor if there's help available.

As for some of the extra expenses that crop up -- Kay and Banks both say they can be reduced by group effort. Parent support organizations can seek corporate sponsors or help from charities, sell raffle tickets, and have car washes or yard sales.

Parents of elementary and junior high school students can jump-start the game by putting pennies aside now. By the time your teen hits high school, you should have enough socked away to make paying his way an easy A.

Bankrate.com's corrections policy-- Posted: May 16, 2006
 
 
More stories by Carole Moore
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