Obtaining an online master of business administration degree can be a rewarding experience, but it can also require some adjustments in your time management if you have a family. Most parents have their hands, and calendars, full managing kids and their busy schedules. When you add higher education into the mix it can be easy to become overwhelmed if you’re not proactive with your managing your time. Below are four tips for balancing the duties and costs of school for those raising a family:
1. Schedule set times for studying and children
A great way to keep your life organized is to create a schedule for school, work, and home life, and to follow it. Grab your calendar and set aside specific times for studying and spending time with your children. For example, you can dedicate yourself to family breakfasts every morning and story or game time at night. Similarly, you can set time aside to study during your lunch break at work or finish up assignments after your children have gone to bed.
Once you’ve organized your schedule, be sure to stick to it. This helps you stay on track and ensures you spend enough time with your family and your studies.
Your studies do not have to encroach on your time with family.
2. Review child care options and costs
If you have young children, you may consider getting help from a source outside to care for your kids while attending class or completing your coursework.
Before selecting your preferred type of child care, evaluate your income and monthly expenses to determine what your budget will allow. For example, in-home nannies are the most costly – according to the Care Index, a report compiling statistics and statements from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, The National Association for Family Child Care, and many other sources, nannies and other at-home care providers can cost families over $28,000 annually.
Cost effective child care options include spouses, family, friends and professional services like day care and preschool. Friends and family are usually the most cost friendly option.
Choosing your preferred form of assistance a few months before your first day of school can allow you to have a dry-run of your adjusted schedule. By doing so, you can make sure the choice fits with both your child and your schedule. If it doesn’t, you’ll have time to find another child care solution before you are busy managing classes and exams.
3. Claim tax credits and deductions
As detailed above, child care can be expensive, and when it is combined with the additional cost of obtaining an MBA, you might need to make adjustments to your finances. Luckily, there are a variety of both family- and educational-related tax credits and deductions designed to make it easier to pay for school and child care. We have listed three tax credits below that can help make pursuing higher education more affordable.
1. The Lifetime Learning Credit can reduce the amount of income tax you pay by up to $2,000. This credit is available to students enrolled at an eligible school for at least one academic period, which is determined by that school. There is no limit to the number of years or courses for which you can claim this credit. However, you cannot claim this credit if your filing status is married filing separately.
2. The Child Tax Credit deducts up to $1,000 from your federal income tax for every qualifying child. You can claim this credit regardless of whether your filing status is single, married filing jointly, or married filing separately. To take advantage of the Child Tax Credit, your child:
• Must be no older than 16 at the end of the filing year.
• Must be claimed as a dependent on your return.
• Must be your son, daughter, brother, sister, stepbrother, stepsister, half-brother, half-sister, foster child, stepchild or descendant of any of the former.
• Must have lived with you for at least half of the filing year.
• Must be a U.S. citizen, national or resident alien.
• Cannot have supplied more than half of his or her own support during the filing year.
• Cannot file a joint return for the filing year.
3. The Child and Dependent Care Credit is available if you continue working while attending school. This tax option uses a percentage of the expenses you pay to your child care provider. To qualify for this credit, your filing status cannot be married filing separately. In addition, your child must fulfill one of the following requirements:
• Be under 13 years old and claimed as a dependent.
• Has lived with you for over half the filing year and be mentally or physically incapable of self-care.
Tax credits for school and child care can make both more affordable.
4. Concentrate on the end goal
Even with all the strategies above, you may need additional motivation during stressful times. During these moments, focus on the beneficial outcomes your master’s degree can provide in the future. For example, an advanced degree can help you transition to a more fulfilling career or achieve a promotion in your desired field, which can ultimately translate to higher job satisfaction. Furthermore, feeling more fulfilled at work can lead to lower stress levels, which can have a positive impact on other aspects of your life.
Also, remember that this level of stress won’t last forever. After graduation, you won’t have to budget your time as rigidly and can be more flexible with your family. The Washington State University Carson College of Business’ online MBA program can be completed in as little as 22 to 29 months, and our Executive MBA program can be completed in as little as 18 months.
The Carson College of Business’ fully online format provides flexibility for students who want to earn an MBA while managing a family. The program is of the same high-quality education found in an on-campus program, but you have the ability to complete coursework based on your schedule, from wherever is most convenient for you.