September is nearly upon us, and that means getting the kids ready for their return to school. It’s an exciting time, but also an expensive one: once you’ve picked up the new uniform, sports kit, rucksack and stationery supplies, you’ll probably have burnt quite a hole in your wallet.
These tips should help budget-conscious parents and caregivers stay on track.
Take inventory of your supplies
Don’t hit the shops until you’ve spent some time going through the cupboards at home. You can often find stationery items lying around, so it may be possible to cut down on costs in that area. Get kids to try on last year’s uniform, too – this is often the most expensive part of the back to school budget, so it’s helpful to avoid purchasing new items unless you absolutely need to. Once you’ve gone through your existing supplies, make a list of what’s missing and stick to it.
Set limits on what your children can have
Kids will often push their luck, asking for expensive branded items and brand new gear that they don’t really need. Letting them have some choice over what they get is important because it can help them to feel independent and in control. However, this should be combined with some rules to ensure they can’t go wild. Involving your kids in the back to school buying process can also be a good opportunity to teach them about the value of money. One good option here is to let your kids buy one coveted, more expensive item but stick to the basics with everything else. You could also give them a set amount to spend and let them buy whatever they want so long as the price is right.
Team up with other parents
Consider getting together with other parents to exchange hand-me-downs: if there’s a big enough group of you then you could even hold a mini jumble sale. Either swap items or encourage people to sell them for a discounted price. Groups of parents can also take advantage of bulk buying deals. Some supplies or uniforms can be bought from wholesalers at cheap rates if you buy several of the same items. As a group, you can split the cost and get an even cheaper deal.
Don’t buy direct from the school
Schools always have their own uniform shop, but if you’re buying something that doesn’t need to have a logo on it then it often makes more sense to look elsewhere. Plain items like smart trousers and skirts can be bought far cheaper from the supermarket or other saver stores, as can shirts and PE clothes. Only buy from the school for items like jumpers and ties, which usually have a specific design or print.
If you’re still struggling to afford essential items then you should speak to the headteacher of the school. They may have some discretionary budget that they’re able to use to help with supplies, or they may be able to relax the uniform rules slightly. In some areas there is also help available from the council; go to the government website for more information.