Photo: Mahmoud Amer 

With food prices hitting a record high last year, many families are going into 2023 with budgeting on the mind. It wouldn’t be life without the irony of the cost of almost everything rising just as folks are attempting to get back into the full swing of things after the pandemic. Of course, parents are feeling it the most with the return to more extracurricular activities, birthdays, and school-related expenses. 

As the holidays approached, so did senior dues, school pictures, book fairs, and the return of field trips. Jennifer V., a mom to a pre-kindergartener and 5th grader in the Bronx has had a hard time covering her daughter’s school expenses this year. “I got the senior due slip for $92 in senior dues in November right as the holidays were approaching. I was already concerned with what Christmas was going to look like and still haven’t been able to pay for it. The teachers keep reminding us about the dues in Class Dojo online but I’m already struggling with paying Con Ed and groceries. I don’t remember ever even having senior dues for fifth grade.” The senior dues for Jennifer’s daughter includes a breakfast award ceremony, the cap & gown, and a senior trip. It does not include the yearbook.The senior dues expense comes after Jennifer already struggled to pay for class photos and made sure her daughter had something to spend at the book fair, “I wanted to make sure she at least had a class picture since she is graduating.” 

Jennifer said they have also increased the amount of school trips for this year. While she’s happy they are trying to make up for the years lost due to the pandemic, she is hoping the trips are low cost or free. “Before the pandemic, most trips were free. I hope the rest of the trips coming up are low cost or free — or my daughter might have to miss out.”

So what are some ways schools can help keep costs down for families? Below are a few ideas to share with your child’s school:

Rethink fundraising ideas: While Yankee candles and chocolates might be a staple in school fundraising, schools and PTAs can consider options that take into account what parents would already be spending anyway. For example, the Amazon Smile program donates .5% of eligible purchases on Amazon to organizations like PTAs, so parents can make a difference with their normal purchases.

Free trip ideas: The United Federation of Teachers website has a handy list of field trip ideas — some of which are free. Share this website with your school to help in planning upcoming trip ideas.

Materials for the Arts: Materials for the Arts (MFTA) collects surplus art materials and redistributes them to nonprofits, schools, and city agencies. Make sure that your school’s principal is aware of this program and has an appointee (often the PTA president) who is granted access to MFTA’s warehouse location in Queens to pick up free art supplies and other unique materials. This can help cut down on costs for supplies, which then can in turn be used to help pay for expenses that would otherwise be put on families. Or materials can simply be used for fun free events with families.

Have you struggled to afford school expenses? Share you experience with us at

Nicole Perrino is the founder of, a hyperlocal website for Bronx families where she use her influence to celebrate the beauty that the Bronx has to offer. In addition to her role at Bronxmama,...

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