It’s that time of year again, when the pitter-patter of little feet turns into a stampede out your front door as the school bus pulls up.
Back to school is an exciting time, but it can take its toll, both emotionally (‘I don’t wanna!’ is an emotion, right?) and financially. All those notebooks, novelty erasers and glitter pens can really add up.
But sending your kids back to the hallowed halls of academia doesn’t have to break the bank if you know how to shop smart this year. So here are our top tips to get your kids tricked out with all their classroom needs without emptying your rainy day fund.
- Set a budget. First step to any major shopping trip – set yourself a realistic budget and then stick to it. Think about how much you can afford to spend and how much you might need to. Once you have a clear idea of what you’ve got to work with, you can make decisions about where you’re going to shop and what you’re going to prioritise.
- Take a list. Whether you write it yourself or it comes home from school crumpled at the bottom of your kid’s backpack, you should have a list of all the supplies you’ll need. Start with everything you can possibly think of, and then prioritise things your kids will need over what they just want.
- Be brand savvy. Your kids will probably want all the popular brand name stuff, from Typo notebooks to a Quicksilver backpack. But they don’t need it, and it’s the last thing your wallet needs.
- Visit the $2 shop. Once you’ve ousted brand names from your shop, think about where you’re going to find cheaper alternatives. Although it probably won’t stock everything you need, your local $2 shop is a great place to get essentials like pens, pencils, erasers and notebooks at a really low cost. When you’ve knocked out the basics, you can re-evaluate your budget and head to slightly more upmarket stores for anything else you need.
- Re-use old supplies. Chances are last year’s calculator just needs new batteries, the pencil case just needs to be emptied of pencil shavings, and realistically, there’s not a lot you can do to upgrade a ruler. Go through your cupboards and your kids rooms before you start to shop and see what can be reused for another year. Not only do you save money, but there’s the added bonus of being a little more eco-friendly!
- Go secondhand. If you don’t have a geometry set lying around to re-use, chances are there’s another parent out there with a kid who turned out to be an artistic prodigy and a mostly untouched protractor. This applies for uniforms as well – if you know a parent whose kids are graduating, ask if you can take the old uniforms off their hands. Even if they’re a size too big now, you can put them away for future use.
- Save on items with an expiry date. While you can reuse some things from Kindergarten to Year 12, others will have to be replaced fairly regularly. You can go cheap with things like pencils, pens and notebooks, because they’ll likely only last the year anyway. Shoes are another item that wear out regularly, not to mention the growth spurts. So don’t spend a fortune on genuine leather shoes your kid will grow out of in a matter of months. On the other hand, it might pay to invest a little more money in a good backpack, which might last all through highschool if you choose your design wisely.
- Take advantage of sale season. So many retailers have huge back to school sales where for a few weeks glue sticks, safety scissors and brightly coloured lunch boxes are practically inescapable. Shop around for the best bargains, and if you find a particularly good bargain, think ahead and snap up enough to last the next few years.
- Pack homemade lunches. Mozo have recently done some research that shows you stand to save up to 587% by creating your own lunchtime snacks instead of relying on convenient multipacks. So put the Munchables back, and instead, grab some reusable containers and larger packs of your kid’s favourite snack and portion them out yourself for some incredible savings over the school year.
- Get your kids involved! Back to school shopping is a great opportunity to teach your kids the importance of budgeting. When you’re making a list of everything they need, tell them their budget and that if they want a set of trendy colour change highlighters instead of the $2 store type, they’ll have to make up for it somewhere else. It might make your shopping trip a little longer, but if you’ve got the time (and the patience) to help your kids budget their own school supplies, they’ll learn a valuable life lesson before even setting foot in the classroom. And hey, maybe if they have to weigh up the pros and cons of a back to school splurge themselves, they’ll go easier on your wallet the next time.
So what are you waiting for? Check out our family finances hub for more great money saving ideas and let us know what back to school supplies your budgeting for in the comments.