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Back to School — How to Save Money (& Headaches)

{ This is Part One of a ‘How To Save Money…’ series I’m starting. Look out for Part Two soon, which will be ‘How To Save Money On Your Electricity Bill’ and, if there’s something else you’d like to see covered, please let me know in the comments. }

Sadly, there’s no such thing as a free education these days. ‘Back to school’ time is increasingly costly and puts a huge financial strain on families. With that in mind, I thought I’d round up some money- and sanity-saving tips to take some of the sting out of this time of year.

My aim is for this to be the go-to resource for parents of school-going kids, so share your own tips in the comments section, and keep checking back to see how others are saving money. (I know I’ll be re-reading this post next year when Scout starts playschool!)

Uniforms

  1. The price of uniforms can vary wildly between retailers, so shop around. Aldi and Lidl have got in on the uniform game in recent years, and offer incredible value. However, there is a caveat…
  2. Remember that cheaper doesn’t always mean better, so keep a close eye on quality. Ask other parents for recommendations. There’s no point buying a cheap uniform if it’s just going to fall apart the first time you wash it. Buying one decent uniform is better than having to buy several cheap ones. (This goes for shoes too.)
  3. Buy bigger. Kids grow at an alarming rate, and will grow out of a uniform quicker than you can bemoan the lost baby years. Either get handy with some sewing skills, or find a friend who already has them. Buttons can be moved, and trousers can be hemmed and then let down as children grow. (If you have the skills yourself, consider offering a uniform-altering service. You’ll make a few extra quid to put towards the back to school fund, and a few parents very happy.)
  4. You won’t have to buy too many multiples if you’re clever with your washing and you teach your kids to take care of their uniforms. Changing clothes and shoes as soon as they get home can save on a lot of extra wear and tear, as can giving the items a quick rinse or handwash instead of always putting them through a full wash.
  5. If the uniform has a special crest on it that means a plain jumper just won’t cut it, see if it’s possible to just buy the crest itself (or nab one from an old uniform) and then stitch it onto a generic jumper. Rather you do it yourself than have someone else charge you a fortune for the pleasure. And remember that just because you have to buy one particular item in a specially designated store doesn’t mean you have to buy everything there.

    Back to school. Uniform. Backpack. Via 'stockimages' on freedigitalphotos.net

Books

  1. Second-hand reigns supreme here, and you’ll find them in more places than you might imagine. There are a lot of stores that offer used schoolbooks for sale (a quick Google should help you find your nearest), or buy them online (eBay, Craigslist, and Amazon are amazing sources of second-hand schoolbooks). And, often, you’ll know someone whose kid is a year or two ahead of yours. Don’t be afraid to ask if they’d like to pass them on at a reasonable price. They’ll be happy to recoup some of their expenses, and to fund the next set they’ll have to buy (as you will be next year).
  2. Schoolbook publishers can be dickheads about bringing out “new editions” every year, in a bid to get you to spend more money. Often, the new edition has minimal changes, so go ahead and buy the old edition. I often had older editions in school and it never hindered me in the slightest. All I had to do was make a note of any new or updated information. Make a quick trip to a bookstore with an older edition, and compare it to the new edition on the shelf. You’ll know yourself if the changes are sufficient to warrant splashing out on the newer version. (Helpful, but sneaky, hint: if the updated information is contained in a new chapter or one handy block of information, find someone with the new edition and photocopy the bits you need.)

Second-hand school books. Back to school. Via Gualberto107 on freedigitalphotos.net

Supplies

  1. Never pay full price for these. Every retailer worth their salt will have these on offer at back to school time. The offers will start several weeks before the school year starts, so don’t panic.
  2. Buying online could save you another few quid, so have a look on Amazon and eBay before braving the back to school sales.
  3. Club together with some other parents and buy in bulk. Things like copybooks and pens will often come in multi-packs. If you know your child won’t use the whole pack, or if buying the multi-pack works out cheaper than buying them individually (it almost always does), share the cost and split the bounty.

Back to school supplies. Via tiramisustudio on freedigitalphotos.net

Miscellaneous

  1. Apply for grants and allowances. In Ireland, there’s the Back To School Allowance. In your country, there should be something similar. Do some research, find out what grants are available, and apply.
  2. Stationery will rarely go on clearance but, as soon as September ends, things like uniforms will. If you can find them in your child’s size, or a few sizes up, consider buying them now so you can have them as spares when the current ones inevitably get worn or frayed, or to save them up for the following year.

So those are all my tips but I’m sure you’ve got a few up your sleeves too so spill them in the comments section, and please click on the ‘share’ buttons below to spread the word. The more people who read this, the more tips will be shared and the greater this resource will become!

Let’s get ‘back to school’ time back down to a less expensive (and less stressful) level.

Images by stockimages, Gualberto107 and tiramisustudio on freedigitalphotos.net

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2 Responses

  1. I’m sooo dreading the new school year (end of January 2018 here in Australia). Our boy starts high school so it’s a whole new uniform, school fees (yes, even for a public school), book list and deposit for the school laptop. This excludes shoes and excursions. We are visiting the uniform shop next week to see what’s what and then I’ll probably cry all the way home afterwards. Hopefully they have a 2nd hand shop so I can get good serviceable uniform bits without the brand new price. Sadly our state (Queensland) doesn’t have a back to school allowance. Deep breath!

    1. Oh, and right after Christmas too! Ouch. Do any of your friends or local groups have kids who are passing down their uniforms? Maybe keep an eye on any local forums or just ask around. I’m sure the uniform shop would be able to offer some suggestions too. Good luck!

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