Bouncing back from back-to-school expenses

By PENDA HONEYGHAN

Monday, September 09, 2019

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OVER the last few weeks, many parents spent big bucks, making huge sacrifices as they prepared their children at various levels of the education system for the 2019/20 academic year. The period, which is often crippling for our predominantly single-parent family dynamic, has left many parents unsure of how they will manage to keep their heads above water until the next pay period.

How can you realistically survive until next payday without getting yourself in a financial bind? These mothers share their tips on bouncing back from back-to-school expenses.

Tamar, 28, customer service rep

Family – single mom of two from Kingston:

At this point my options are very few. I didn't take out a payday loan initially because I thought I could manage, but now I am running low on cash and it is not the middle of the month yet. I have travel expenses, I'll take lunch when I can, but I also have to consider the miscellaneous expenses. I also have to make sure that my children have snacks and so on, so I am going to borrow $15,000 then do a big payment once I get paid.

Shanny, 31, sales representative

Family – single mom of one from Linstead:

Realistically, I will have to revisit my budget. I also have to face the fact that some bills will be paid late until everything gets back on track.

Tonoya, 40, teacher

Family – Married mother of three from Harbour View:

We spent a long time getting out of debt so loans are not an option. What we did was to plan strategically — the July paycheques were for the books and supplies, and August paycheques to pay the auxiliary fees. I also begged friends and family for used books — even the workbooks. What I did was to still take the used workbooks from people who offered, erase where I could, white-out where I could, and for the pages where I was unable to do that, I would photocopy pages from new books that I borrowed, and paste the copies over the pages that were already completed. So I have about seven brand 'new' workbooks using this method. This year, in total for the three kids, I only bought two books new, plus supplies! I've also become an expert at juggling the three credit cards we have, to watch the billing cycle and use the ones that will have me paying bills later — at October month-end. And regarding food, we will live on pasta for a while. The kids are also all taking the bus now, as I introduced them to it over the summer, and my husband and I use just one car, instead of two.

Michelle, 35, shopkeeper

Family – single mother of four from Spanish Town:

Right now I am planning a cake sale to see if I can make a small profit quickly to help me pay off some of the debt I have. Doing back to school alone was really rough as a single mother. This year the book shops went hard with the prices but if the children don't have the books it doesn't make sense that they go to school. So now I just have to ban my belly and pay back people. So hopefully I can do the cake sale before month-end to deal with this.

Tashana, 26, store manager

Family – single mother of one from Linstead:

Lord Jesus, the thought of this question lets me cringe inside. Back-to-school expenses are above me, it's almost impossible to survive on the minimum wage I'm currently receiving. The week is not finished yet and I'm already wondering how I'm going to pull off work bills and other expenses that are due before payday.

Melinda, 44, home-maker

Family – separated mom of one minor child from Mandeville:

I only have one child in second form; the other two are grown and working. My ex-husband is not really helping out, so I travelled in July and did a little buying to resell clothes and perfumes and this is what helped with the expenses. My daughter is not fussy about new stuff — I recycled the uniforms and shoes, and only bought new blouses. I also bought a backpack from LLBean from grade five and it's still going strong. My daughter also got a lot of second-hand books. So now the major expense is transportation and lunch, and I will pack her a sandwich most days, and I will walk with her from our home to Mandeville, then she will take a taxi to school, instead of two taxis from home to Mandeville and from Mandeville to school.

Samantha, 30, supervisor

Family – mom of two from Portmore, receives child support:

This year has by far been the most challenging. Thankfully, I didn't have to do it alone or I am not sure how I would have managed because it took all the money I had. Thankfully, most of my transportation is arranged by work, and I will just have to prepare lunch at home — sometimes something light or leftovers from dinner, all while counting down to the next payday.

Jheneil, 34, front desk personnel

Family – mom of two from Kingston, receives some child support:

Well, let's just say I will have to eat what is now is now in my cupboard which is bread and cornflakes. Chances are, those won't even take me to the next payday but I guess I will just have to cross that bridge when we get there.

Stephanie, 28, marketing manager

Family – divorced mom of one from May Pen, receives child support from overseas:

My ex lives overseas and I put him on child support so the cheques come, but slowly, then I have to wait 10-30 days for them to clear here. It's not a lot of money, and often by the time I get the funds I would have already borrowed money from people and have to pay them back. This back-to-school was difficult, as my son is in grade six, so it's more books to prepare for, plus extra lesson money. I'm doing some freelancing and I make jewellery on the side, and sales from these are what paid his school fees. I'm hoping not to go into any more debt, so I've been working around the clock to make stuff to sell, so I can survive without borrowing, because my last paycheque finished from the day I got paid!


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