Back to School Savings
By Marc Lockley, Guardian Online Columnist and Author of "How to Pay Less For More"
No sooner have the school holidays started than our heads are filled with 'back to school' adverts reminding us of yet another expense to consider. Last week a friend told me that their child starting high school meant a whopping £350 bill for the school uniform alone!
However with a few helpful tips you can avoid unnecessary spending and save a small fortune, making the return in September a financially happy one.Budgets and targets are key!
Itemise what you must
replace/need (different from 'would like to have') and approximate costs
from school clothing to stationery and set yourself a budget. It's
important to stick to your list as shops are cleverly laid out to
persuade you into buying that solar powered calculator even though you
only went in for a pencil!
With your budget, set yourself a
target to achieve – perhaps 30% less, awarding yourself a treat if you
achieve your goal. Then follow the tips below;
The bits and pieces
- Whilst some schools insist you buy from their supplier, many don't. Most supermarkets including Asda, Morrisons, Sainsburys and Tesco cater for typical clothing such as trousers, skirts, shirts, blouses, coats and shoes.
- Keep an eye out for bulk buy offers and shop with a friend to take advantage of the special deals.
- Hand-me-downs are a great way to save money on uniforms, or you could get together with friends to set up a swap club; arrange a day for swapping all school essentials with friends and family.
- Kitting the kids out for sport can be expensive; shops like JJB Sports are often a great place to budget shop.
I remember my son saying last year we didn't have any rulers. After searching the house for twenty minutes we found 5! It's worth half an hour searching for pads, pens, calculators etc.
Visit the pound shops. Poundland
, for example, even has a dedicated section for Back to School on its website. These discount stores often have great little knick-knacks for just a quid.
If it's desktop software they need for doing projects and essays, save around £70 and download OpenOffice
for free.Food for thought
Canteen food can be costly, often amounting to over £450 a year. Consider ditching the canteen for a packed lunch. Not only would you be in control of their diet but you could save cash as well. If this isn't an option, at least avoid the morning snack by taking advantage of the offers that supermarkets regularly promote. Last week I spotted half price cereal bars for less than 20p each, saving more than 50% on canteen prices.
According to the Department of Education around 717,000 children in England are eligible for free school meals; however approximately 15% do not apply. To find out whether you are eligible visit Direct Gov
. Not only will you save on lunches, the schools actually benefit by receiving additional funding for each eligible child.Shopping savviness
If you have to purchase new items then make sure you shop around. For example the popular school calculator Casio FX85GT Plus is £9.99 in several shops, however Staples is selling it for £9 plus a 15% discount code
on all Back to School. If you achieve this type of saving in your
£300 budget, you would be £75 better off!
page also has a great Back To School competition so check that out too.