At the start of a new school year, school fees and expenses can add up quickly. In fact, the money spent on education can be one of the biggest annual expenses for a family. We’ve prepared 7 financial hacks to help you save and better deal with school education costs.
1) Start saving for school as early as possible
It might feel early to think about it when you’ve just had a baby, but the best time to start saving for their school education is when your child is born. If that's not an option, then like any other long-term savings goal, the best time to start is as soon as possible.
Set up an education account and arrange for a regular direct debit to come out of your everyday account. This way, you can start saving straight away with small amounts and let the balance build up without needing to think too much about it. Putting away regular amounts like this will help to ease the cost of school fees when the time comes.
To estimate what the total cost of education might be for your child, visit https://www.asg.com.au/calculator
2) Uniforms don’t have to be perfect (they never stay perfect)
Uniforms can be costly, especially given that you’ll likely need a few of the same item. This way, you’ll ensure you’re not washing the uniform at the end of each school day.
Start by taking stock of what you already have in your cupboards. Before buying new school uniforms, check the second-hand shop or discuss a swap with other parents with children of different ages for gently loved school uniforms. There may also be a facebook page for families to cater for buying, selling and swapping uniforms. Keep an eye on sales throughout the year from stores like Kmart, Big W and Target who may have some of the uniform items you need.
3) Make a list of back to school supplies
Have a look at the supplies you’ve already got in the house – chances are that you’ll have a lot of the basics that can be used at school. Before hitting the shops for school supplies, create a list of the things that you need, to avoid getting carried away with your purchases. Set a budget for each child and get creative by either buying in bulk or going to $2 stores or cheap art and craft supply stores as they may have what you need at a fraction of the cost.
A lot of retailers offer back-to-school specials and you can always double-check online before you head to the shops and you might save on both money and time.
4) Pack lunch everyday (it’s healthier too!)
It can be tiresome to pack a school lunch everyday but it’s a no-brainer that it will save you money and perhaps even be healthier for your children. While the canteen can be convenient, the costs can quickly add up. Get the kids involved in the process by discussing what they’d like in their lunchbox. Then make a list together and go shopping for the times on the list. Encouraging them to help prepare their lunchbox will likely make them more enthusiastic about eating it. Packing lunch the night before can be a real time-saver in the morning.
5) Buy a quality school bag
While backpacks can be pricey, choosing the right one is important. Opt for a backpack with strong straps on both sides that distributes weight evenly. Ensure that the bag doesn’t weigh more than 10% of your child’s body weight when it’s filled. The heaviest items, such as textbooks, should be placed parallel to their back at the back of the backpack.
6) Beware of the technology trap
Both public and private schools have increasingly turned to tablets and laptops because schools in Australia are now including teaching electronic skills in the curriculum. While many public and private schools will ask that you supply your own device, it's best to check what the requirements are before making a purchase like this. If buying the required technology is proving difficult to finance, it’s best to speak to the school to see what arrangements can be made.
7) Talk to your children about saving
Discuss with your children the importance of budgeting and saving. This will help prepare them for financial responsibilities and understand your approach to money. Depending on their age, start talking about money at the ATM, at the supermarket, when paying bills or when doing a family budget.