As all parents know, even if you are not paying private school fees the school will regularly ask you for money. There are school trips, extra-curricular activities, lunches, class photographs and more. With the school year starting, it's now the perfect time to be budgeting for the year to come.
If you already use Money Dashboard to assist you with your finances, you can look at your spending over the course of the last school year to predict how much it is likely to cost you. Take an average monthly cost and put that money aside each month to meet these costs.
If your child is just starting school, you can speak to school representatives or experienced parents to get an understanding of the costs involved. Getting prepared now will make meeting these costs easier throughout the year. Here are our top tips:
What Do You Already Have?
Before you go to the shops, search your home and make an inventory. The backs of drawers and cupboards may house old pens, pencils, rulers, notebooks, rubbers and other stationary. Take stock and you'll likely have less to buy than you thought.
Check that jumpers, gym kit, and shoes still fit. Some will last a while longer. If anything is too small, don't chuck it out, it can be sold on.
Make a List and Don't Deviate
Read the notes from the school, and make a full list of items they will need. When you go shopping, stick to this list. Don't buy anything else. You can keep the price to a minimum by only getting the essentials.
Online prices are often much lower than prices in the shop. Have a look on Amazon, eBay, and Google shopping for anything you need. Sometimes prices are advertised without postage and packaging, so make sure you take this into account. Also look at where the item is being delivered from and the estimated delivery date. The cheapest options are sometimes from China or other Asian countries, but they might not arrive by the time school starts.
Second Hand Uniforms
Find out if the school does a second hand uniform sale or a thrift shop. Children grow fast, and uniforms or gym kits are regularly not well worn before they have to be passed on. If the school doesn't organise a sale, communicate with other parents and see if you can buy, sell, or swap with them.
Charity shops near the school might have old uniforms at bargain prices. You could also look for books, stationary, and shoes that fit at charity shops, or advertised second hand on websites like Gumtree.
Remember that any clothes you buy for your kids will have to be durable. They must endure playing outside, painting and messy eating without getting wrecked. If you buy discount brands and low quality clothes, it may be a false saving when they develop holes that can't be repaired or stains that can't be removed, and have to be replaced.
While folders, jotters, lunch boxes and pencil cases are available with your kid's favourite performers or characters are likely available, branded merchandise is usually sold at a premium. You can buy plain products and personalise them. It could be a fun activity to do with your kids, so they get a hand in what their school stuff looks like. Pages of stickers can be bought online for a few pounds. Along with some coloured fabric or marker pens, you can turn school supplies into a creative art project celebrating whatever brand your kids want.
When kids play, uniforms get damaged. Instead of throwing them out and buying new stuff regularly, you can save money by doing a bit of needlework. Basic sewing isn't difficult to learn - there are instructional videos online, and buying needle, thread, and some spare buttons is far cheaper than replacement clothes. You can even go a step further and learn how to make alterations to clothes that don't quite fit.
Pack a Lunch
Whether you find it easier to do in the morning before school or the night before to be refrigerated, giving your child a packed lunch to take will save you spending on school dinners. It also gives you better control of their food intake to make sure they get a balanced, healthy meal.
Planning Ahead for 2017
Look out for bargains and sales on jotters, stationary and clothing throughout the year. Even if you don't need it yet you'll inevitably need replacements for lost or broken equipment, or clothes in larger sizes. Often these things are more expensive in August as that's when people shop for them. Over the next year, build up school supplies and you'll have a much cheaper August next year.