We’ve spoken with hundreds of principals around the country, and we heard a recurring theme from many of them: the number one reason they cite for not effectively managing their budgets is a lack of time. But the good news is, you don’t necessarily need a lot of time to stay on top of your budget; you just need to spend your time wisely.
To help provide guidance to those school leaders who face multiple time-consuming responsibilities on any given school day — and isn’t that all of you? — we created this checklist to help you cover your bases. Click to download a PDF version of this checklist.
The Three Rs
An essential tool for monitoring your spending and analyzing your budget are what we call the 3Rs: Review, React, and Refine.
REVIEW : Have I overspent in any accounts?
REACT : Do I have the funds to make this purchase?
REFINE : How can I better allocate funds differently in the future?
Weekly Account Health Checklist
You should be checking up on your financial health at least once a week. Here are three questions you can ask yourself on a weekly basis:
- What is my total available balance to spend for the rest of the year?
- Have my staff or students made requests that I should consider as I review my available balance?
- Do I need to check on my encumbrances? Which purchase orders and invoices have been paid?
Monthly Account Health Checklist
You should also be asking yourself some big picture questions every month to make sure you meet your annual goals:
- Will I spend all of my grants in time? (Pro tip: grant deadlines don’t always end when the school year ends.)
- Am I on pace to underspend, overspend or break even in all accounts by the end of the year?
- Are there any transactions I need to initiate now to prepare for the next few weeks?
Managing your school’s budget is like developing good financial hygiene: it takes regular, consistent habits in order to yield better long-term results. As most school districts around the country wind down the remaining months of this fiscal year, we hope these quick hits can help you close out the year on a positive note.