The holidays are over! Just as we have had a chance to recover from 2023 the South African school year is about to begin. With it comes the familiar discomfort of back-to-school expense. But hold on, parents! In this challenging economic climate, getting the most bang for your buck isn't just possible, it's a superpower!
Creating a back-to-school budget
These budgeting for back-to-school tips will help to guide you for the 2024 school year in a way that maximises education, minimises spending, and keeps everyone smiling (even your bank account):
Plan for Peak Savings
Become a List Lover: Ditch the last-minute dash. Consult your official school supply lists early and make your own list of what you need. Prioritise need-to-haves over want-to-haves. You can’t escape those A4 notebooks and the inevitable list of stationery, but you can escape the extra expensive needlessly branded ones.
Budgeting Brainiacs: Set a realistic spending limit and stick to it like glue. Divide your budget into categories (stationery, uniforms, textbooks). You can track your progress by downloading handy budgeting app.
Second-Hand Superheroes: Embark on a pre-loved quest! Use online platforms for gently used clothes and textbooks. Approach parents in the grade above your child’s and ask if they have good quality school uniforms that their child has outgrown and that they are willing to sell. You can do the same the following year as children outgrow uniforms long before they outgrow their quality. The same can be applied to textbooks.
Savvy Shopping for Back to School
Price Patrol Pros: Compare prices across online retailers, local stores, and bulk-buy options. Remember, there’s a yearly "back-to-school" competition between retailers. If you can, make do with what you have left over from last year and wait for the rush to be over and then look out for sales of the lower-priced leftovers.
Stationery Smarts: Don’t let your brand conscious child demand character-covered books and stationery. Buy generic notebooks, pens, and pencils in bulk – they work just as well, and your child's creativity can shine on their own terms by decorating them themselves.
Textbook Tactics: Explore second-hand options or consider textbook rental programs offered by some schools or online platforms. Buying second-hand textbooks from children in the grade above is a budget-friendly win too!
Consider the Uniform Debate
Some people feel that a unique school uniform evokes a feeling of pride and community within a school, but many parents struggle with the steep prices of the clothing items. For many years there have been debates about whether to make uniforms more generic or do away with them all together, and there are many pros and cons to the argument. But whichever way you look at it, the time has come where new uniforms need to be bought, for a new school or simply because your child has outgrown last years’ clothing. Here are a few tips to remember when shopping:
Shop around: Don't just go to the first store you see to save time. Compare prices at a few different stores before you make a purchase.
Buy in bulk: If you have more than one child in school, it may be cheaper to buy their uniforms and stationery in bulk.
Look for sales: Many stores have sales on school uniforms and stationery throughout the year. Keep an eye out for these sales and stock up when you see them.
Consider used uniforms: There are several places where you can buy used school uniforms, such as online marketplaces or consignment shops. This can be a great way to save money on uniforms that your child will only outgrow in a year or two. Some schools sensibly have a second-hand shop, where you can buy well-preserved school uniforms and textbooks.
Nutrition for Educational Excellence
Lunchbox Legends: Food from home is will always be better and healthier than food from the tuck-shop. Check out Jamie Oliver’s back-to-school recipes for some delicious and budget-friendly inspiration. Pack healthy, nutritious lunches at home. Invest in reusable containers and thermoses to avoid overpriced store-bought options. Get your kids involved in meal planning – children love to eat food that they made. This also gets children into the habit of making their own food – a habit you will love as they get older.
Extracurricular Extras: Encourage your children to participate in activities that offer the most value. Free or low-cost options like library clubs, school sports, school debate and chess clubs or science clubs and community events can spark passions without breaking the bank.
Tech Toolbox: Utilise free educational apps and online resources for extra learning fun. Many libraries offer free computer access and internet, too. We offer a great set of educational tools on our resources page.
Bonus: Learning Beyond the Classroom
Turn the Home into a Learning Hub: Visit zoos, museums, botanical gardens, and historical sites on free or discounted days. Organise educational outings like nature walks or stargazing. The world is your learning oyster!
Family Book Bonanza: Head to your local library for story times, book clubs, and borrowing privileges. For little people, encourage family story-time, reading aloud to your children which promotes both bonding and literacy in one!
Community Connects: Get involved in local educational initiatives or volunteer programs. These experiences are enriching for everyone and often come at little to no cost.
Remember, parents, a fantastic education doesn't require a fortune. By planning, prioritising, and a bit of out-the-box thinking, you can ensure your child gets the most out of 2024, academically and you get the most out of 2024 financially. This also frees up the budget to include the need for tutors if your child is struggling with any subject. School is about giving your child the best education possible, rather than having a Marvel superhero lunchbox or a Disney character school bag. Now go forth and conquer the back-to-school season with your budget-savvy superpowers!