For most people, the New Year is synonymous with ‘fresh start’. But for families, it also means ‘back-to-school season’ with its many hidden costs for fees, uniforms, stationery and extra activities.
Looking for ways to ease the pressure on your wallet? Check out these smart financial planning tips.
What do you really need?
Making a list and sticking to it can be a great money-saver. Try to focus on what you really need – and what you don’t. Is there anything that you already have and that can be reused? Anything that can be sold? What else do you need to purchase, either brand-new or second-hand?
If you’re going for second-hand, family and friends with older kids are a good resource, and so are websites like Trade Me, Neighbourly and Facebook. You might be able to tick uniforms, books, stationery and sports gear off your list – without paying over the price.
How much can you spend?
Summer can be an expensive time and tough on the early year budget. Take a moment to write down your budget, to clearly understand what money is coming in and what is going out. Also, you can gear up for the next back-to-school season by recording how much you have spent this time, and plan to have the same amount (or perhaps less or more) ready and available next year.
Items to watch for
Kids grow fast, and second-hand uniforms are usually available for a reasonable price. Some schools also offer second-hand uniform sales, or you can even swap with other parents for free.
As for stationery lists, they tend to be quite long. You can go through the list with a teacher and identify the must-have items, or even ask your school if it’s possible to spread the cost and buy as you go – most retailers usually lower their prices later in the year, when the annual frenzy is over.
And finally, if your school has a ‘bring-your-own-device’ policy, check their technology requirements: without upsetting your children, sometimes cheaper brands and last year’s models may be just as good, and more affordable.
Why not involve your kids?
Money management is an important skill to have, and even small money lessons can go a long way. So why not involve your children in a little ‘back-to-school’ budgeting project? Sometimes, the pressure of having what’s on trend may prevail (or turn into a no-holds-barred negotiation), but it’s a good opportunity to teach your children some handy money smarts.
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