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Current Tip

Plan Ahead to Manage the Expenses of  
Your Child's High School Senior Year 

Costs are often heavy on the road to high school graduation … and while you may expect senior year in high school to bring in extra bills, some of the additional costs often catch parents and students off guard. You can navigate sticky situations and mitigate much of the financial burden by planning ahead.

Take Inventory

Before you establish a budget for senior costs, get a big-picture view of the possible expenses. Ask your school about anticipated costs or talk to a parent who has just been through the senior year with his or her child. If you don't know anyone, ask your kid, who is sure to have friends with older siblings. 

Find out about the following potential senior costs:

  • Senior photographs
  • Yearbook
  • Memorabilia
  • Class trips
  • School dances
  • Year-end fines 
  • Graduation

Plan Ahead and Make Choices

Once you know those senior year costs, examine your financial situation. Take a look at your cash flow, income, and expenses, and decide what you can put away for senior costs and how early you need to start saving. If your household budget is very tight, start planning in the beginning of your student’s junior year. If your budget is more flexible, start in the spring before senior year.

As a parent, decide how much you’re willing to spend and then sit down with your student to make some choices. Discuss needs (such as the cap and gown) versus wants (such as class rings) and ask your child what things are most important to him or her. 

If your child isn’t happy about the concessions he or she has to make based on your budget, suggest he or she pitches in. Having your child contribute some of his or her own income is a valuable experience – it’s teaching your child to decide what is important when he or she is putting in the time and effort and sweat to pay for it.

You can find more tips on managing back-to-school costs in the Education and Career section of the Smart About Money website.


Montana Credit Unions for Community Development (or MCUCD) is the award-winning, charitable arm of the Montana Credit Union Network. A state-wide nonprofit organization, MCUCD works together with the state's credit unions to improve the lives and financial independence of all Montanans.