Walk to school

The 4 Step Guide to Back to School on a Budget

25th August 2021

The not-so-sunny summer holidays are almost over, and just like that, it’s back to school season again. Every year, you find yourself thinking the same thing: how did it come around so fast? And every year, you’re confronted with a child who’s grown two inches in height and five inches in attitude.

Joining you on this parental journey is the clothes carousel - the yearly uniform roundup that feels never-ending, and won’t end until school does. There’s also the stationery, folders, bags, books, pens and paper to contend with, and for those of you with more than one kid, it can be a costly affair that looms over you all summer.

This guide will show you how possible it is to shop savvy and send the kids to school on a budget. Organisation and prioritisation are key - with these, you’ll be managing your finances and cutting costs in no time.

1. Reduce and prioritise your list

Making a back to school list is essential as it means you’re less likely to forget something. However, sometimes you may end up with more on your list than is actually needed. From over-excited children marvelling over the latest (and let’s be honest, overpriced) lunchbox craze to parents adding too many pairs of socks to their basket because their kids love the mud so much, there’s always unnecessary money that is spent during this period.

So, before you head to the shops with excited kids in tow, sit down and evaluate your priorities. Set your list into categories and decide which expenses are most necessary and vice versa. The most popular back to school categories are:

  • Uniforms and PE kit
  • Backpacks and lunchboxes
  • Books
  • Stationery

Once you’ve done this, take another look at your budget and set a spending limit on each category. This will help to organise your list better - you’ll know exactly how much you have to spend on each item, and you’ll be able to utilise your spending strategy much more effectively.

If you can, leave the kids at home. This will prevent any unplanned spending from a child who simply must have everything they see.

2. Do a house sweep before you start shopping

Attention! Your home is probably filled with many items on your list, you just need to find them first. A golden rule of back to school budgeting is to always take an inventory of your home before you begin shopping.

The first and most important ritual you need to implement is to unload your child’s backpack as soon as they return home for the summer. Chances are, there’ll be many notepads unfilled, and many pens, pencils and other stationery items in perfect working order. Next, head to your junk drawer or home office (or down your sofa if you’re brave enough).

Take these items that are still in good shape and store them away ready for next term. You’ll be surprised how many items can still be used, and you’ll be even more surprised when you work out how much you’ll save.

Aside from books and stationery, you can also do this with clothes. Take a look through your child’s wardrobe and see what’s still in good condition. Then, around a week before you plan on embarking on the big back to school shop, see if these still fit your child. If so, take them off the list - all they’ll need is a wash and a bit of freshening up and they’ll look as good as new.

Ready for school

3. Look out for the best back to school offers

When purchasing supplies for the new school year, the average UK family spends around £191 per child. With £19 of that being spent on school shoes, £16 on PE kits and even £12 being spent on lunch boxes and water bottles which adds up, many families are spending far more than they need to.

During back to school season, there are so many different offers and sales that can be taken advantage of. From supermarket school shoe sales to stationery shop supply deals, there are a range of outlets brimming with offers that can save you plenty of money.

And, thanks to the internet, there is a much wider range of stores and brands that can offer essential school items for much less than you’d think - all it takes is a little bit of research. Facebook Marketplace and eBay are great places to source budget-friendly items, especially if you don’t mind second-hand supplies. Sometimes, these marketplaces even have essentials listed for free.

By keeping a close eye on special offers and deals like these, you’ll be able to easily reduce the amount you spend.

4. Budget your way through the school year

There are a variety of ways you can prepare for your child’s next school year without breaking the bank. By drawing up a budget and sticking to it, not only will your finances avoid taking a drastic hit, but you’ll also realise how little you actually need to buy. If you need more convincing, we’ve answered why budgeting is important. Be realistic with your budget and figure out exactly how much you can afford to spend, even if it seems like these costs are absolutely unavoidable.

Unfortunately, back to school season isn’t the only school-related expense. You may also need to budget for things like school trips, big class projects and sometimes even printing costs for homework.

From reusing last term’s PE kit to spending some time going through your child’s school bag and saving some well-kept essentials, you’ll be able to save the pennies for when you really need them. Not only this but, with the right guidance, your kids will also begin to appreciate the value of money. It’s a win-win, really.

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