September can be an expensive time of year for families as kids go back to school. The new school term starts again and that means lots of new ‘stuff.’ Pencil cases and lunch boxes, uniforms and textbooks, as well as school run petrol and lunch money – it all adds up. If you’re trying to keep a tight hold on your finances then we’ve got some great savings tips that will help you ease back into the new term.
What do you already have?
There’s one word that sums up the week or two before a new school year starts and that’s: chaos. In that chaos it’s very easy to forget that you may already have plenty of school socks or winter shoes and there’s really no need to blow the budget on more. Take a few quiet moments to do an inventory of what you already have. Will last year’s lunch box do for another year? Can the T-shirts and shorts from a summer camping trip serve as gym kit? Do you already have drawers full of writing materials? You could cut your list in half by avoiding buying twice.
Don’t buy new
Kids will always object to this. However, charity shops and pre-loved forums and websites offer a great way to make significant savings. You might not want to buy something like a lunch box second hand but there are huge discounts to be found on items such as football boots, overcoats, hockey sticks or books. Take a look at websites such as Mumsnet and Freecycle to see what’s available in your area.
Back to school uniform sales
Because kids grow so fast, school uniforms can be incredibly costly. It often seems as if as soon as you restock for the new term with jumpers and shirts the buttons are popping at the seams and the knitwear hangs like a crop top. Many schools run second hand uniform sales for this very reason. Make enquiries at your kid’s school to see if there’s an official – or unofficial – sale and see what you could buy at a discount price. Bigger, hard wearing items are a particularly good bet but as children grow out of uniforms so fast you can usually find a whole range of good quality pieces – at a fraction of the new buy cost.
Find the sales
Inevitably, at this time of year there are Back to School sales galore. This is a great way to keep costs down, whether you manage to find stationary supplies with a third off or Buy One Get One Free on shirts. Dedicate some time to hunting around and finding the bargains. Look online, as well as your local high street. This will really reap rewards as you could halve your back to school bills with a bit of careful sales shopping.
Use a credit card
If you know that you’re facing a pretty substantial back to school bill and that can’t be avoided then use a credit card to pay for it. While you can’t cut the outlay, you can at least benefit from it if you spend it all in one place. Pay the bill at the end of the month and there will be no interest to pay. Choose a card that rewards you for every penny you spend, either with cash or points for air miles or shopping vouchers. With the right card you’ll at least create some savings in other areas of your life. That could be discounts for Christmas or vouchers you can put towards the next school shop.
Make this the year of the car pool
If you’re spending time and money being a school chauffeur then this is a great year to make a change. Find a group of similar minded parents – or suggest it to your friends – and work out a schedule that makes life easier for everyone. You’ll not only cut down on the cost of petrol and wear and tear to the car by sharing the driving. Not only that but you’ll also free up that school run hour a couple of times a week to do something else with your time.
Children always want the fanciest, shiniest, coolest and best looking items for back to school, as this is a key time for impressing mates. If you don’t want to spend out on top dollar items that are just going to get trashed then buy cheap and customise. Pound shops are a great place to find essentials like bags and pencil cases. With a bit of creativity and some arts and crafts talent you can turn these into unique possessions that everyone in the class will be envious of.
Alex Hartley is a keen advocate of improving personal finance skills. She's worked at Solution Loans since 2014 and written hundreds of articles about how people can manage their money better. Her interest in personal finance goes way back to...Read more about Alex Hartley