How to fight back to school costs

Back to school costs are a financial killer for many families. Christmas and your break at the beach are still wreaking havoc on your wallet when next thing you need to spend $1,000 or more to get the kids back to school. Nationwide we have 750,000 students going back to school.

To make matters worse, school is getting more expensive every year. Once upon a time a ruler, compass and some HB pencils were all you needed. These days it’s flash workbooks and a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD).

Here at Canstar we’ve put our heads together to find ways to save money.

Buy uniforms second hand. There are so many ways to get your hands on second-hand uniforms and it can save you a small fortune. Posting on Facebook and other social media sites such as Neighbourly will often turn up some cheap or even free uniform. Trade Me is also a good option for sourcing second-hand uniform. So are notices at the local supermarket. Some schools offer second hand uniform sales. Or do what one of us did, swap with another parent. If you’ve got a girls’ uniform and need a boys one find someone in the opposite situation. You can also delay shoe purchases. Shoe stores often have sales as soon as the children have gone back to school

Cut your stationery costs. Schools love handing out super long stationery lists. The chances are that you have pens, pencils, books and more left over from previous years. Get the kids to go on a stationery hunt and then mark off what you have off the lists. Even if you don’t want to shop around, flick through the fliers and get your stationery shop of choice to match its competitors’ prices. If you’re really pinching pennies, ask your teacher to go through the list with you and tell you what is absolutely essential. Finally, if the school won’t give you a list and asks for a fixed sum of money, wait until your friends have their boxes, look at what you need and buy just that. If you really can’t afford items for class sets such as colour pencils, just don’t buy them until you can pay for them.

Delay that BYOD purchase. Welcome to the 21st century. We’re told our children need to bring their own devices to school. There are some good arguments in favour of the educational value of a tablet. But the chances are that the one your child wants is eye-wateringly expensive. Check with parents a year above if the devices really get used. Quite often children who don’t have one will simply share with the child sitting next door. It’s not always essential to have the top of the range either. Last year’s model will do, or a cheaper brand. Ask advice at your local electronics store. If you delay buying until February you’ll find some good sales. Do carefully check the technology requirements with the school though – you don’t want to risk buying a device that’s incompatible with the software the kids will need to use.

Spread the cost. Ask your school if you can buy as you go. Often schools keep a stock of stationery at the same cheap prices that retailers sell the stuff for in January. Or only buy the absolutely minimum number of uniform items at the beginning of the year and stock up as the seasons change. Retailers need to clear their stock because they know they won’t sell much until next January. Some schools will quietly cover the cost for you if you go to them and ask.

If you’re really struggling go to Work and Income for a school assistance payment. These loans are recoverable and do need to be paid back, but at least they’re interest free.

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