Back to school on a budget

Back to school on a budget

Regardless of their age, preparing our children for the return to school can be stressful – and costly. Stationery, clothes, a new school bag, gym kit, new lunchboxes, deposit for the next school trip, new shoes… With their minds filled with wonder and excitement and their hearts set on the latest mod cons, the list can seem never ending.

Of course we want nothing but the very best for our children but sometimes our financial realities mean that we simply cannot provide them with all the ‘back to school’ material dreams they’d hoped for. In this article, we will explore different ways that you can check off your child’s return to school list without breaking the bank!

1. Needs vs. wants

Often the most essential school items are the last thing on our children’s minds and this is understandable – I mean, who is thinking about the practicalities of a sensible gym shoe when there’s a shiny new stationery set on the cards? However it is important to distinguish the items that are fundamental for our child’s education from the ‘nice to haves’ in the first instance.

Most establishments will provide a list for parents covering the essential items for the school return such as gym kit, textbooks, necessary stationery, course materials – this is a good starting point. Once you have purchased these items, you can consider how much you have left and set yourself a budget for the rest.

2. Does it need to be replaced?

As you will know, kiddy trends change in the blink of an eye. That gorgeous branded rucksack that you were begged for last year might not look so desirable now the colour is ‘outdated’. However if you are on a budget then it is important to consider how viable it is to replace an item that is in good condition just because it’s not quite as fashionable as it was some months ago.

Be honest about this with your son or daughter as the sooner you start to familiarise your child with the value of money, the better it could be for them in the long run. Explain that cost factor of the item and possibly suggest that if they really want a new item, something else from their list may need to be sacrificed for a cheaper option.

Alternatively, customise! Jazzing up pencil cases and reupholstering old school bags may not only cut back costs dramatically but it can also prove a hugely fun activity for you to share. Your child may even appreciate showing off a unique bag that they designed and made themselves more than a high-cost option which all their friends have.

3. Shop around!

It’s simple, you may find exactly the same item at a lesser price simply by shopping around for it. With summer sales better than ever, what is full price in one store could have 50% off in another. In this day and age, this does not have to mean driving around for miles going from shop to shop either. You can do it all from the comfort of your own home.

You may want to consider using shopping search engines and comparison sites will show you how much the desired item is at a number of different retailers. Look out for coupons or promotional discounts such as money off or free delivery too in order to to knock down prices further.

Online auction sites can also be another place where you could save some money and many popular book e-stores often offer great ‘back to school’ reductions and promotions such as ‘3 for 2’ on textbooks.

4. Know your limit

It can be all too easy to fall into financial difficulty by wanting to send your child back to school with the best of the best, but remember the best does not have to be the most expensive. Keeping clear limits on your  budget can help you stay in control and out of debt.

You can involve your child by offering them small budgets to manage such as allowing them to buy their own stationery but explaining that the money you are giving them is all they have so they need to ensure they make wise decisions. This could help to familiarise them with dealing with money and they will love the freedom of having their own choices.

After the expense of entertaining your children for the Summer period, the last thing your bank balance needs is a knock into the red from over-spending on school essentials. Following the tips above could help to rid you of some of these woes but if you are worried about losing control of your finances, you may wish to seek debt help from the experts.

This post was written by John Hughes who is the resident blogger at, a UK based site that provides
access to financial advisors  as well as to debt advice charities for those struggling with their debts.


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