4 Spending Mistakes You're Probably Making at Your School or District

Flashback to the weeks just before this last school year ended. Do you feel like your budget and spending helped your school in the best way possible? Or do you maybe wish you did one or two things differently?

In our work supporting schools and districts around the country, we’ve learned that often decisions are made just because that’s how “it’s always been done”. However, once budget owners become aware of alternative solutions, there is an observable shift in behaviors. Drawing from our experiences, below are four common school or district spending mistakes and recommendations for next steps.

1. Spending a lot at the end of the year

Chances are that you spend a little bit throughout the year as your staff requests supplies. Then, you realize that a district spending deadline is coming up in the spring, and it’s a race against the clock to get purchase orders submitted! If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. The graph below is from one school district but is a common pattern across most school districts around the country. Notice that April is when heavy spending occurs. It is also when there is a set spending deadline.

Image of spending trends in Balance Manage

What you can do

Plan ahead for the year. If your school needs hardware, software, or other supplies, ensure that those resources are available early enough to support students. Also, plan for spikes in spending that might take place around major events or at the end of the year (e.g., continuation and graduation celebrations, device inventory refresh, extra substitute teacher spending). Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint and the funds you receive are intended to benefit this year’s students.


2. Using the wrong account codes, or leaving some blank

We know, filling out account codes is a pain. Remembering to include these long strings of numbers can feel like more work for you. However, these codes, when used accurately, provide rich insight on spending that can help you receive guidance from the central office on how to spend in a way that will see the greatest impact on your students.

Image of spending trends in Balance Manage Image of Students

In the meantime, the short term benefit is smooth processing of your purchase without the back-and-forth and delays that can take place when information isn’t entered correctly.

What you can do

Ask your finance office about receiving the latest chart of accounts manual or list of codes that you should be using. If you are an Allovue Balance user, you can reach out to our customer success team for support with account codes and chart of accounts.


3. Not having a strategic check-in with a member of your finance office

Your district’s finance team is there to help you succeed. Most budget owners only reach out to finance for basic questions such as, “How much do I left in my Title I account?” or “Can I move money from this code to another code?” or “Has my purchase order been processed?”. In reality, your district’s finance office is a great resource to support you as you align resources to your staff and students.

Image of spending trends in Balance Manage

What you can do

Reach out to your finance office with strategic questions. Come prepared with information on planned spending for the rest of the year and whether you think you’ll over- or under-spend. Highlight what your department or school needs. For Allovue districts, we can work with you to setup a Mid-Year Review to help you conduct a health check on your accounts.


4. Never checking on your spending throughout the year

Having a budget is one thing, but adhering to it as another. The same way that it is almost impossible to diet if you don’t watch what you eat, it is very difficult to stay within your budget if you aren’t monitoring spending regularly.

What you can do

Set aside time once a month to check in on your school’s or department’s financial health. Allovue Balance users can contact the customer success team to review last month’s spending, and in some districts, have a mid-year or quarterly review process in place.

Image of logging in to Balance Manage

Good News

There’s an easy way to fix all of this, and with the school year barely off to a start, you’ll be in good shape as you keep each of these items in mind.



About the Author


Allovue provides innovative education finance technology solutions to educators nationwide to help them budget, manage, and evaluate school spending. The company also provides districts with supplemental services including funding equity analysis, diagnostic surveys, and financial management training. Allovue’s flagship product, Balance, is an online software platform designed to help K–12 administrators access, understand, and control their financial data.