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Spend Carefully

Back-To-School On A Budget

Financial Wellbeing Coach

2021-12-07 00:00

Estimated reading time
5 min

In this article

  • Work out what you really need from the school list
  • Reuse, don’t replace
  • Shop the sales
  • Label it, don’t lose it
  • Give a device for Christmas
  • School lunches that don’t break the bank

Starting the new school year is often a time of enormous excitement (sometimes more for you than for the kids). But it can also feel a little chaotic, with so many things to prepare for – and lots to put back in your budget.

Luckily, with some simple planning, the summer countdown can be smooth sailing, and you can feel a little more confident about affording everything the kids want and need. It’s not just about cutting costs, but rather about being budget-savvy when it comes to stationery, textbooks, uniforms and lunches. So stay cool, we'll get you back to school (stress-free).

1. Work out what you really need from the school list

“Research shows that parents are overspending on school stationery by an incredible $37.8 million by fulfilling their school list directly from their schools, instead of looking for alternatives,” according to this Sydney Morning Herald article. To avoid unnecessary overspend, try using the school’s list as a guide - not a bible - this year. And don’t forget to shop around for the best price.

2. Reuse, don’t replace

We all love that new stationery rush, and faced with millions of options, of course kids will find it hard to say no! But the costs of new backpacks, uniforms, drink bottles, lunch boxes, scissors and shoes every year can really add up if you buy the latest edition every time. This year, if it's in good working order (and still fits), consider giving it a second go. And if it no longer fits, pass it on – someone else might be able to benefit from it.

Many schools have a uniform exchange program, or there are community groups and online groups that facilitate the trade of second-hand uniforms and textbooks. If the textbook is only needed for short periods, consider borrowing one from the library or checking second-hand stores instead.

3. Shop the sales

Many stores have back to school sales before the school year starts. If you’ve planned your checklist in advance, you can keep an eye out for any price drops or specials as the year ends and make the most of those summer bargains. And depending on delivery costs, you might choose to click-and-collect, or buy it in-store to save a little too.

4. Label it, don’t lose it

There's no faster way for your budget to blow out than by losing items you've recently bought. Labelling everything is your best insurance against having to buy costly replacements when kids inevitably misplace things. This means sewing labels into school uniforms, sticking labels on books, stationery and lunchboxes. You might want to get appliances like phones, bikes or tablets engraved if you don't plan on reselling them. Some police stations even offer do-it-yourself bike and device engraving facilities.

5. Give a device for Christmas

If a BYO laptop or tablet are necessary at your school, why not double up on deals and give your kids their new device as a gift for Christmas. Before you buy a laptop or a tablet, understand the specs required (storage space, speed, operating system) and compare products online. Some schools also get a bulk discount on laptops and tablets, allowing for a “choose your own device” (CYOD) option. This may be cheaper than buying your own device but look through the contract first and decide whether it’s the best deal for you and your child.

6. School lunches that don’t break the bank

Seeing the tuckshop as a treat, not a habit, is a great way to save on snack costs. And if you are able to pack school lunches every day, you could cut down on waste by getting your kids involved in choosing their fruits, veggies or kinds of bread, so that they’re more likely to enjoy their choices. Leftovers like quiche, pizza, soup or casseroles are all great lunch choices from dinner the night before. And planning ahead can help you make leftover-friendly dinners - pasta sauce on Wednesday could be a pizza topping on Thursday. These Better Health lunchbox tips are a great resource to get started.

Final tip: Budget for extras

As savvy as we all try to be, costs will inevitably pop up throughout the year without warning. Putting aside some money each week towards extra school expenses will help prepare you for surprise replacements, camps or extracurricular activities.

Back-To-School On A Budget
Financial Wellbeing Coach

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The information set out above is general in nature and has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on the information, you should consider whether the information is appropriate for you having regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs. By providing this information ANZ does not intend to provide any financial advice or other advice or recommendations. You should seek independent financial, legal, tax and other relevant advice having regard to your particular circumstances.