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Back to school budget basics

2nd October 2023

be money confident

Top tips to help you budget for everything from pencils and plimsolls to lunchboxes and laptops.

Whether you’re kitting out a four-year-old for their first day in Reception, or waving off a University-bound teenager, the cost of going back to school can soon add up. It can take some careful budgeting to keep your family financially fit throughout the academic year - check out our top tips to help.

Get school uniform savvy

It might be tempting to buy brand new with every new school year, but there really isn’t any need. As a first stop, have a proper sort through your children’s wardrobes to find out what still fits and what’s in good condition.

Once you’ve figured out what you still need to buy, don’t opt for brand new at this point either. Save money by buying second hand. Take a look at online second hand websites or your local charity shops and you’ll likely find what you’re looking for. Many schools also offer second-hand uniform sales, so get in touch and find out. Alternatively, jump into your local parents’ social groups and see if anyone there can share a pre-loved version of what you’re looking for. Good for the planet, and your pocket!

And while some items with individual school logos will have to be sourced from official suppliers if second-hand is not an option, check out supermarkets for the basics.

Smart stationery

Kids think they need the latest trends at the start of every year. But before you go shopping, check what you already have around the house.

The same goes for school bags, lunchboxes and pencil cases. A quick wipe or a whirl in the washing machine, and they’ll be as good as new for another term – or get the kids involved in some creative DIY and help them revamp their old items for a brand new look.

Start saving now for extra school costs

Even when the basics like school uniforms and stationery are covered, more expenses lie ahead. From school trips and visiting performers to music lessons and family fun days, the costs keep on coming – so start budgeting now.

Set whatever you can afford aside each month to cover these outgoings and you’ll feel more comfortable to pay for them when the time comes. If there’s money left at the end of the year, you can pop them in the shoe budget for next September.

Pack a lunch and opt for water

Sourcing a healthy packed lunch is cheaper than paying for school dinners – and you’ve got the added bonus of knowing what your kids are eating. Wraps and sandwiches are a super option, with some fruit and cut up veg. But don’t forget to make the most of your leftovers. A pasta salad in a Tupperware box is a winner with kids – just don’t forget to pack a fork!

When it comes to quenching thirst, there’s nothing healthier or cheaper than a drink of water at school. Pop a water bottle in their bag, and protect their little teeth from sugary drinks. It’s a great way to build the habit of drinking water young – and they can fill up their bottles for free at school.

These options are great for students too. Rather than buying lunch on the go as you head into uni, pre-pack your own food and bring a bottle of water, and you’ll have more cash in your pocket come the end of the week.

Travel on a budget

Whether you’re taking your child to school or getting yourself to college or university, take a budget option when it comes to transport. Rather than hopping in the car, walk, scoot or cycle. Over the course of a school year, it all adds up. And think of the benefits to the environment.

If school or college is a bit further than a walk or bike ride away, chat to a friend or another parent about sharing transport duties.

Make the most of deals and discounts

Look out for school and college-related bargains throughout the year, and pop any purchases aside that you don’t need now for the future. Student discounts, loyalty programmes and cashback offers can help make huge savings, so before you commit to anything, make sure you’re not missing out on a better deal elsewhere.

Set a Monthly Allowance

For parents, as well as older students at school, college and university, establishing a fixed, monthly allowance is a must. By managing expenses and keeping track of outgoings as well as prioritising needs over wants, you’ll get to the end of each month in a strong financial state, which is exactly where you want to be. Factor in a monthly savings pot and you’ll be money confident for those rainy days.

Prepare for next year

Create a list of annual essentials and keep an eye out through the year for school-related sales and offers as well as quality second-hand items that crop up online or through your parenting network.

Buy little and often and next time round you’ll avoid that last-minute summer splurge that hits hard every year.