The summer holidays are ending and the school year is about to start. While some parents may feel a twinge of relief at finally getting the chance to ship the kids off back to school, there are others who will be feeling under pressure, as they realise that they haven’t yet gotten their kids organised for the year ahead.
For these parents, there will be a sudden rush to find everything on the school booklist so that the kids can ‘start’ their holiday homework. There will also be a strong sense of frustration, as they realise that 6-8 weeks have gone by and there was still not enough time to get all the uniforms in check and the school books sorted.
As the school holidays draw to a close, you’re likely to see more and more of these harried adults stalking around stores, clutching coloured school-list papers to their chests and snapping at any of their children who dares to utter a word. While the organised amongst us may smirk, or even feel pity for our less-collected brethren , there’s no denying that the expenses generated for the ‘back to school’ season can be a financial burden on us all- organised or not.
Below are some tips to help ease the monetary stress that this essential part of the year can bring.
Time: As long as you need, but preferably before the kids head back to school
Materials School book list
Handwritten checklist and pen (For essential items that aren’t on the school list. For example, school shoes etc).
First of all, it’s best to read through the school book list that was generated by your child’s school, highlighting all the items that you don’t have. Check off all the items you might already have in the house, such as spare stationery.
Sometimes items, such as colouring pencils and pens, can be reused from the previous year. If, however, the pencils have been sharpened down to 5cm stubs, and the ink has run dry in your child’s pens, it would probably be best to replace them. Look through last year’s pencil case and see what you can salvage.
. Many stores put on 'Back To School' sales
Unlike primary schools, secondary school booklists can really push the budget--often, students will need expensive textbooks that they will only use for one or two years, but they’ll need to have a specific edition to work from. If the textbook needed is not a new edition for the year, you can probably purchase a second-hand one. Sure, it may have hand-written notes scribbled throughout it, and it won’t be in immaculate condition, but it will be a cheaper option.
Talk to people you know whose kids may have already studied the subject (and who are willing to sell their old books). Likewise, you could visit an educational second-hand book sale- some schools have a buy-back system where, at the end of the year, you sell them your old textbooks. You only get a small percentage back (and only if the book sells) yet it’s a great way to get rid of old books and give them a second life. You may be able to find one of the textbooks you need at one of these sales- ask your school reception for information about any second-hand textbook sales.
. Textbook purchasing can be an expensive business
Many people don’t purchase English and Literature texts from the school booklist because they think they can get them cheaper elsewhere--either at an ordinary bookstore or online. Despite this thinking, I wouldn’t recommend it. Often, schools use a specific text and it really helps if every student has the same copy (in terms of page references and so forth). An example is Shakespeare’s Macbeth--there are so many different versions of this text, and it is published by so many different companies, that it would be difficult to keep up with the class if you were to have a different copy to the majority. If you know exactly which book the other students are using (or you don’t mind your child having different page references for certain texts), go right ahead and purchase the book elsewhere. But if you want to make life easier for your child, I would get the book straight from the booklist. You may be spending a few dollars more, but at least you know you’ll be able to get a copy (many bookstores sell out because school supply stores are able to buy the text in bulk, and in turn, deplete stock levels at the publishers).
I wouldn’t bother to buy stationery from the school book list, unless it is something specific that is difficult to find elsewhere (like a graphics calculator, for example). Most schools don’t mind what stationery your child uses, as long as it doesn’t contain offensive pictures or language. There are so many affordable, cute and cool options available for general stationery buying, and you only have to look as far as your local supermarket or department store. Many of the larger shops have ‘Back To School’ sales, where you can pick up pens, pencil cases, lunch boxes, exercise books and other items for a fraction of what you would ordinarily pay. Best of all, these items are kid-friendly, with bright colours and licensed characters making the whole stationery-shopping expedition fun.
If you have storage space at home, buy extras of all the essentials while they’re cheap- the last thing you want is to have to buy replacements for pens and other stationery at their regular prices later on in the year.
. Stock up on cheap stationery for the school year
Unless your child is starting at a new school, or they’ve grown out of their old items, you probably won’t need to worry about buying a new uniform. If you find that you do need to buy some more uniform pieces, there are several options. Most schools have a uniform shop where you can purchase new items (or if they don’t, they can point you in the direction of a general school uniform shop that stocks the uniform that you need). Sometimes these shops also have second-hand uniforms available (using a similar system to the textbook buy-backs, as mentioned above).
Likewise, you could talk to people you know whose children may have grown out of their uniforms (and want to sell them), or you could check the ‘for sale’ section of your local newspaper for second-hand items, like blazers or kilts. Where possible, try and buy items slightly too big, so when your child has a growth spurt, they’ll still be able to wear what they have. Some items which wear out over time, like socks, are best bought new.
School shoes are another item that can be quite costly to replace. Most children go through several pairs throughout their schooling life, so you want to make sure that they’re comfortable. You have two options for new school shoes, depending on how you work your budget. If you want to buy some high quality leather shoes, which are sure to last quite a while, it is best to go to a proper shoe shop, which has a specialty school shoe section. These shoes may cost a lot more, but they’re also more likely to survive the daily wear-and-tear of the schoolyard. Your child’s foot will be properly measured, and you’ll be able to select a comfortable choice (hopefully within your price range). The cheaper option is to visit your local department store, like Target or Big W. They, too, have school shoes available, and although they’re a lot cheaper, you’ll probably be looking at lesser quality. If you don’t mind buying a few pairs throughout the year, this may be the better option for you.
If your child has good quality shoes that fit perfectly but are a bit worn down, consider taking them to a shoe repairman or cobbler, who can re-sole them for you. This is a much cheaper option than buying a new pair of shoes, saving you money, and making the lifespan of the shoes infinitely longer. If your child has older siblings who have grown out of their school shoes, check to see if they fit- you might not need to buy any more shoes after all.
. All of these tips are designed to save you money throughout the school year
Lastly, don’t get enticed into buying unnecessary items for school, just because they’re in the catalogues. Your child might convince you that they need an android tablet or laptop for their school work, but unless it’s on the school book list, or you can see some benefit in them having these expensive items, I’d steer clear. Not casting any aspersions on your child, they’re more likely to use them to play games or go online than to study for school. If you don’t have a computer in the house at all, then it could be handy to purchase one for your child’s education, but I’d otherwise try and avoid the issue.