This year, everything about going back to school is going to be different.
While no one knows quite what a return to the classroom is going to look like yet, one thing is certain. Going back to school will mean spending on your children’s uniforms and stationery, and these costs can add up.
So what’s the best way to manage the cost of back to school shopping?
Make a back to school budget
Create a household budget so you can see how much you can afford to spend on back to school shopping.
The Bank of Ireland UK Budget Planner, found here will help you work out how much money you’ll have left once all your regular expenses are taken care of.
Next, work out the cost of what your children will need when they go back to school remembering to include things like voluntary contributions, after school childcare, after school activities and clubs, lunches, and travel.
Make a list for all your back to school shopping
Make a list of everything you need to buy and start planning when to buy them.
Look out for any sales or seasonal discounts offered in shops or online – many retailers will offer a discount during back to school season. Make sure to tick off items on your list as you buy them.
Try and space out your purchases, buying a few items each week to spread out the cost of having to pay for it all the week before school returns.
Cutting the cost of school uniforms
Children’s uniforms can be handed down to younger brothers and sisters if they are still in good order and small repairs made if needed.
Some schools collect unwanted school jumpers and other items like pinafores and skirts and make them available for new children starting school.
You can also check if school crests can be bought and sewn or ironed onto a generic uniform. This gives you the option to buy cheaper, non-branded versions of items like jumpers or polo shirts in discount stores.
Children grow so quickly that a uniform that fits perfectly at the start of the autumn term may no longer fit by spring term. Buy uniforms with a bit of room to grow in them so you get longer out of them.
Save on pens, exercise books, pencil cases and school bags
It is always nice for children to get a new pencil case, school bag and lunch box when starting the new school year but without a budget, the costs can really add up.
Look out for deals on stationery and buy in bulk where you can to cut down on costs through the year. Discount supermarkets now sell a wide range of back to school essentials at low cost.
It can be a good idea to buy a good quality, reusable, water bottle as some cheaper versions may leak and could end up costing you more money if books get destroyed.
Label everything to avoid the cost of replacing things
Label everything that goes into your children’s schoolbags and everything they wear. Children can be forgetful and pick up jumpers or pencils belonging to other children all the time.
Labelling helps avoid conflicts over who owns what and means that items can be returned if left on a bus or in the playground saving you the cost of replacing them.
Make sure that after school activities are affordable
The cost of after school activities can quickly add up.
If you have more than one child, look for activities that offer discounts for additional children taking part and see if you can get them all to agree to take part.
Find out from the school if you have to pay upfront for a half term or a full term of after school clubs or activities. Remember to make a note of when you have to pay when you are budgeting for the months ahead and especially for January!
Home-made packed lunches are not only cheaper than shop-bought lunches, but are often much more nutritious. Spend a little time before doing your food shop to plan out your family’s weekday lunches to reduce your food waste and save you money.
Bulk buying food can be expensive initially, but if you have a larger family it can pay off in the long run. Look to see if any bulk foods can be frozen to extend their shelf life.
Buying in season produce is also a great way to save money and eat fresh!
The cost of fuel can really add up if you are driving your children to and from school every day. If you are close enough to the school, consider cycling or walking to save money and squeeze in some exercise on the way!
If walking isn’t possible, check if your child is eligible to get the bus to school. It could be a more cost-effective option than driving and many children enjoy travelling with their friends.
Get help with school uniform costs
You may qualify for a school uniform grant to help with the costs of back to school. Find out more information on schemes available in your local area here.
It’s never too early to start planning ahead
If you can afford to, it might be a good idea to plan ahead for next year’s back-to-school costs. Keep a note of what you spent this year, and begin to put some money aside for the following year.
Even saving a small amount frequently can add up. If you are able to put £5 a week into savings, you will have £260 for back-to-school costs next year!