How to save money on back-to-school costs
Tips to tackle start-of-year spending.
With the school year about to begin and the budget blues in full swing, now’s the time to get on top of that school requirements list. For many of us, wallets will be feeling light after the Christmas period, so we’ve compiled some cost-saving tips to help you tackle the school year head on.
Ask the school office if it sells secondhand uniforms. Many schools offer a buyback programme, selling on behalf of other parents at a lower price.
Talk to other school parents. Uniforms are expensive and once kids have grown out of them, there’s not much use in keeping them. Seek out parents of kids a year or two older than yours who may have uniform that’s now a size too small.
Keep an eye on both the school and local community’s noticeboards or Facebook groups. You can also put a call out on community websites such as Neighbourly, which acts as a type of virtual noticeboard.
If the school isn’t too strict about uniforms, look for generic alternatives like unbranded polo shirts, plain trousers and PE gear. These are usually easy to find in stores such as Kmart, The Warehouse and Postie.
For school shoes, keep an eye on shops offering deals. Take advantage of ‘buy one, get one half price’ promotions if you have multiple kiddos. Or if you’re buying for just one kid, buy a pair for now and a pair one size bigger for next year. Here’s what to look for in a pair of school shoes.
It may sound counterintuitive, but if you can, spending money on something like a more expensive but better-quality backpack means it’s going to last longer and cost you less in the long run, instead of having to replace a worn-out one every year.
Most schools have a stationery list and some even have a very handy link to a supplier’s website with all items ready to go in your basket. But it’s worth comparing prices online before choosing which store to shop at. Some stores offer a payment plan or free delivery.
Chances are you have pencils, pens, and maybe even glue sticks strewn in a bottom of a drawer somewhere. Sift through what you already have – you might be surprised by what you can tick off the list from what’s lying around home.
If you have half-used exercise books, cut out the used pages and reuse them for the new year. There’s no point in wasting good paper.
Leave the kids at home (if you can) while shopping. I remember pleading with my mum for the funky fruit-scented pens and bright book covering to razzle-dazzle my school gear. But in reality, I didn’t need any of those things. Leave the kids behind if you don’t want to be waylaid and instead opt for the bonus of keeping them busy tasked with decorating their own workbooks using their imagination.
Buy in bulk to cut costs. Team up with other parents to make a group purchase, then split the supplies and the discounts.
Shop lunch smart
Look at unit pricing. Online shopping websites usually tell you the price per 100g as well as the overall cost. This can be eye opening when you realise that a sale can sometimes offer less value than a full-priced product from another brand. Don’t be fooled by sale stickers.
Consider switching to supermarket home brands. These cost less but can be just as good as their pricier counterparts.
Buying in bulk (if you can) saves you money in the long run and takes the stress out of planning next week's lunches.
Join your local fruit and vege co-op, or opt for canned or frozen produce. There are a few ways to get your 5+ a day without breaking the bank.
Ditch the single-use plastic to help your wallet and the environment. By buying reusable wraps and food pouches, you’re only spending once instead of having to buy a new roll of cling film every few weeks.
Single-serve portions (bought in multipacks) are convenient but can be pricey. Fruit, popcorn and crackers can be repackaged into leak-proof containers or other reusable packaging. This saves you money and you won’t be buying lots of unnecessary packaging.
Don’t get too comfortable shopping at your local. It pays to shop around. Look online and see what deals different stores have each week, to snap up a bargain when you see it.
Check whether your school is participating in the Ka Ora Ka Ako Healthy School Lunches Programme.
Talk to your school office. It might offer payment plans for purchasing uniforms to help spread out the cost.
If you’re currently on a low income or receive a benefit, you can apply for support from Work and Income towards school uniforms and stationery costs. If you don’t meet the criteria, you may still be able to access this financial support, but you’ll have to pay the money back.
If you’re caring for someone else’s child and need help with school-related costs, you may be able to get the School and Year Start-up Payment.
The Ministry of Education has advice for parents and whānau about school costs.
If you need help with budgeting or managing debts, you can search for a financial mentor in your area.
Name everything. Lost items are far more likely to be reunited with their owner if a name is visible on the front cover or written on the tag.
You can save by making use of community connections to share transport of children to and from activities.
A lot of schools require laptops or tablets for schoolwork. This can be a big expense, but opting for refurbished technology (second-hand) instead of brand new cuts the price. Find out more about the dos and don’ts of buying refurbished.