5 Back to School Money Saving Tips
The Back to School shopping season is one of the most challenging times of the year for family finances and it’s a time that clear choices have to be made but also where genuine savings can happen.
From uniforms, to books and shoes, to extra-curricular activities and voluntary contributions, September is one of those months where it seems that while schoolgoers are constantly raiding the fridge, parents are continually rushing to the ATM!
Here are 5 Back to School Money Saving tips to help you avoid too many shocks this September:
1. Partner Up with other Parents
Parents across Ireland have been revealing just how they tackle this time of year, in a new Parents Panel set up by Tesco, where they share their tips and advice on cost savings and planning. By partnering up with other parents you can make significant savings.
Talking to another parent who has a child in the class a year ahead of your child and buying as many books from them that match your book list can result in savings. You’ll get cheaper books and have some money towards the next set. Also, if your child is in secondary school, try to buy the maths formula book and scientific calculator, science lab coat, etc. from someone a year above who won't be using them again. Equally look out for book rental schemes in your school.
2. Plan Ahead Where Possible
A recent survey from the Irish League of Credit Unions reveals that school associated costs have increased year on year from 2012 with overall spend for primary children on average at €967 per year per child and secondary €1,474.
By planning ahead a little and spreading those costs earlier, you will not feel the huge hit in September. For uniforms, which are estimated to be one of the biggest costs, developing a ‘wardrobe needs’ list for each child will result in savings as will checking to see if there are any hand-me-downs from older siblings. Buying a uniform one size bigger is also a good idea.
For sports clubs and voluntary contributions, ask if you can spread the payments or pay them a little later to give a little breathing space where needed, so that all the bills are not coming at once. Always label uniforms so that they are less likely to get lost at school or on playdates.
3. Research for Rewards
If you’re finding the start of school term financially challenging this year, check whether you’re available for the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance (BSCFA). This is offered by the Department of Social Protection to help parents to afford uniforms and footwear for children going back to school.
When shopping this September, look for savings with, for example, the red ‘Prices Staying Down’ symbol at Tesco, which means that these prices haven’t changed and you will be able to feed your family well on a budget, particularly when buying the staples like milk, cereal, butter, bread and eggs and of course choosing a good range for their five a day.
If you need to purchase expensive electronic devices for your children, there are a range of pre-pay plans around technology, such as those available from Tesco Mobile. Tesco Clubcard vouchers can be used, for example to buy schoolbooks. Look out for rewards and incentives and money off coupons to save wherever you can.
4. Get Better at Bulk Buying
Bulk buying can often seem tedious but with primary schools now open for 183 days a year and secondary schools for 167 days, there are a lot of school lunches to make and there’s also a lot of washing to do. By using your freezer and cupboards well you can really make considerable savings here by buying ahead and freezing. Think about buying other household essentials in bulk when you see special offers and the savings will really add up.
Stationery is another cost that can really add up across the year and again it is good to buy ahead and store what you need, rather than going shopping each time. By stocking up with multi-packs of refill pads, markers, pencils and pens, you’ll make great savings and ensure you won’t run out.
Also, when it comes to trends around uniforms and clothing, it’s better to go for the more traditional look that your children won’t tire of. As mum Sandra Droney suggests for schoolbags: “Buy a plain backpack and decorate it with keyrings, that way when young kids fall out of love with a cartoon character you just take off the keyring no need for a brand new backpack.” Also mix and match the generic items in uniforms such as skirts, shirts and trousers, even if you have to buy branded jackets and jumpers.
5. After-School Snacks Add Up
Parents and minders pressed for time can fall in to the pattern of running to the shops daily to grab after-school snacks or snacks for Saturday and Sunday sports games. Hundreds of euros can be saved across the terms if you can just find the time to plan ahead for after school hunger pangs. “Three meals a day? With my gang, it’s more like five! After-school is all about getting food into them fast. They need that energy hit”, says Claire from Cork.
Pre-preparing celery and carrot sticks that they can have with dips or buying multi-pack snacks will really help the budget. Playdates, where parents often come under even more pressure for snacks and drinks for children’s friends can be where the costs add up. Baking once a week can also be a good solution as mum Audrey from Limerick recommends: “One of my favourite things to do is bake homemade brown bread with lots of wholegrain and seeds. The kids love it with some peanut butter as an after-school snack”.
Purchase a good water bottle for children so that they can constantly re-fill them, rather than buying expensive drinks in non re-usable bottles. If your school doesn’t have a ‘no-junk’ policy, consider recommending one through the parents association to again lessen the pressure to provide ‘treats’.
The same applies to school lunches where big savings can also be made: “It’s all about forward planning. When you’re doing your big shop, consider what you’ll be cooking for dinner each evening – leftovers can make great school lunches” says mum Claire from Cork. Making a budget and sticking to it, shopping online and being forensic about what you spend across will ensure they’ll be cool for school and you’ll save with savvy shopping this September.