Friday, 19 February 2010

Guest Post: 5 Ideas for a Frugal back to School Season

Thank you for Fred who has kindly provided a guest post. I hope that you enjoy it.

5 Ideas for a Frugal back to School Season

Raising children can be an expensive business and there are plenty of business out there ready to charge you your entire savings fund just to kit out your kids in books and uniforms. However, if you plan your back to school shopping a little more carefully this school season, you can frugally find everything you need with plenty of change to spare.

1 Seek out second hand uniforms

Since you have children you know just how fast they can grow, especially during their school years. Therefore, you can find some very good quality uniforms with very little wear at second hand uniform shops. Your school may have their own second hand uniform shop or you may look through the school newsletter or local noticeboards for parents wishing to sell on their now undersized uniforms. Plus, because your children are likely to grow out of their new-second-hand uniforms before they add much wear you can get back a lot of your uniform costs by selling them on again to new parents.

Also, if you have more than one child try and send them to the same school so that you can save even more by recycling the school uniforms within your own family. A hand-me-down school uniform is going to be in the same good quality as a second hand uniform and you don’t have to search through the second hand stores, or pay for the second hand uniform at all.

2 Shop at home

Before you head out to the stationery stores check what you have at home, and what can be salvaged from the previous year. For example, you probably don’t need to buy a new backpack or pencil case at the start of every new school year and there are likely to be pencil sharpeners and staplers which have a bit more school life left in them – these are some of the most expensive back to school items you’re going to need so look for these first.

Once you’ve checked what your child has left from last year, have a look around the house for anything else they need. It could be a spare calculator your child can use at school, or a nice binder or notepad they were given for Christmas which can be used for one of their classes.

3 Compare prices

Your letterbox will be clogged with back to school specials and stationery catalogues at this time of the year, so take the time to see which store has the specials on the items you need. Also don’t worry that the paper is on special at one store and the pens at another because you don’t have to get everything from one store – that is how the stores build their business, by getting you in with a special and getting you to buy up big on the items which aren’t on special. To save you even more time and money, do your back to school shopping at a store which will price match so you can get everything in one place, for the best prices in town.

4 Make a list and stick to it

If you’re taking your children shopping to help with back to school supplies then you can easily blow your frugal back to school budget with ‘I want, I want, I want’. Instead, make a detailed list of the things you need for each child and the amount, often you can buy ten pens cheaper than you can buy five and if you’re organised you only need to make one trip and can save on fuel and time costs too.

If your child does want a school item which is not on the list (of course they will!) budget for one extra item and have them pay for anything else they want themselves. Alternatively have them pay for the upgrade from the affordable white binder to the one with the flowers printed on it to teach them the difference between needs and wants, and what their wants really cost them.

5 DIY school supplies

You’ll probably notice the difference between the white binder and the prettier coloured one too and if you don’t want to upgrade all of your child’s school supplies at the store – no matter how much pocket money they are willing to contribute – personalise their school supplies when you get home. old wrapping paper or a cheap packet of stickers can decorate books, binders, pencils and pencil cases and be covered in a clear layer of plastic or contact for protection. Leftover stickers can be used for future art projects and your child now has a personalised back to school set, and has learnt the value of their savings, and the satisfaction of making something from scratch instead of just buying it already made.

Fred Schebesta writes for an Australian
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