Going back to school is usually the last thing on everyone’s minds at the start of the summer holidays but planning for it will save you money.
Marlies Kappers, a mother who is also DirectAxis Financial Services’ Chief Marketing Officer, says that by anticipating back-to-school expenses you can budget and spread the costs, rather than having to buy everything at once in January.
Another advantage of thinking ahead is that you can shop when it suits you and when prices are best. For example, you might be able to pick up some stationery, sports essentials or computer equipment in the post-Christmas sales.
DirectAxis spoke to some parents and teachers, who had the following suggestions to help manage back-to-school finances and avoid unnecessary expenses.
Start when the last bell rings: Before the uniform gets bundled into the wash, check to see if it’ll last another term. Do the same with shoes, school bag and inventory the stationery. This ensures that you only buy what is really needed. It also allows you to check if anything such as a blazer has been left at school, while there’s still a chance to get it back.
Make a list: Studies show that people who shop without a list can spend up to 23% more. Find out from the school or other parents exactly what your child needs for the next year and by when. They may not need everything in the first term. Try to get as much detail as possible, so you don’t waste money buying the wrong thing. Cross off the list anything you already have.
Score second-hand savings: Children can quickly grow out of jerseys and blazers. If the school has a second-hand shop you may be able to find good quality second-hand items there. Alternatively talk to other parents who have children who are older or leaving school and ask if they have any uniforms they want to sell.
Set a budget: Unless your child is just starting school or moving from primary to high school you should have some idea of what you spent the previous year. Using this, your inventory of what they already have and the list of what is required should give you a good idea of how much you’ll need to spend. Once you’ve got a budget, stick to it. It may be an idea to involve your child. Agreeing the list of requirements and what the budget is may prevent them asking for everything they see when you go shopping. If they do, it makes it easier to say no.
Seek out savings: Look for opportunities to save money. Some schools provide a discount on school fees if these are paid in a lump sum at the beginning of the year. The same may apply to bus fares. If you are able, try to take advantage of these savings.
Don’t be tricked by what’s trendy: Children can be very brand conscious and may want something because its trendy and consequently more expensive, rather than because they need it. This can be true of shoes, sports gear and particularly technology. Many schools require children to have tablets or laptops and most children want top-end-technology that comes at a price. Rather find out the specifications of what is required and what the equipment is being used for. This will help you decide what’s most appropriate. If in doubt, ask the teachers or other parents, rather than a computer salesperson, what offers the best value or what most children use.