It's hard to believe that back to school season is already nearly upon us.
On that note I am already starting to panic about when we'll get round to buying uniforms and school shoes, not to mention racking my brain trying to figure out where on earth I put the kids' school bags at the end of last term.
And don't even get me started on how the heck we're going to transition from our current routine of 10pm bedtimes and waking up bleary-eyed the next day at a time of the morning that just won't cut it once the school term begins.
So, mindful that most mums and dads go through a bit of a back to school panic, here are my tried-and-tested tips for getting the whole family back-to-school ready.
1. Buy school shoes now
Yes, I know what you're thinking. Kids grow like weeds and if you invest in new shoes now there's every chance that they'll have grown another shoe size by the time the first day of school actually rolls around - but that's pretty unlikely.
What IS likely is that if you leave your school shoe shopping until the very last minute you'll find that only the most expensive stock is left in your child's size, and you'll end up paying through the nose for something you could have got for a song a few weeks earlier.
And don't believe all the drama about how expensive shoes from a reputable shoe store are the only sensible option for precious little toes. TK Maxx often have fabulous school shoe options at significantly reduced prices - check out their online Back to School shop here, and Brantano have some affordable options that are decent quality too - click here for the Brantano Back to School shoe shop. And over at Asda right now you can get 20% off leather shoes when you spend £25 on school uniform.
2. Start a loose change tin for school funds
My kids are constantly tapping me for cash as we dash out of the house in the mornings on the way to school. If it's not milk money they need then it's change for toast from the canteen at break time - and I invariably end up having to stop at the cash point half way through the school run. That inevitably means I take out more money than they actually need and end up spending some to give them the change, all of which adds up to an exercise in wasted money. So for the last couple of weeks of the school summer holidays I'm going to start putting all my loose change into a tin that I'll keep solely for school cash. That way when they come begging for 50p for toast or a pound for the school cake sale, I'll have all the change we need to hand without needing to go near the cash point. If I'm REALLY organised, I'll remember to put half of it in a tub in the glove-box of my car, too, so we never end up strapped for cash on a school run morning.
3. Start planning packed lunches
Don't wait until the first week of school to figure out what to send in your little darling's lunchbox. That often ends up as a costly endeavour. Before now I've done a frantic dash into the local bakers for an extortionately over-priced sausage roll on a fraught Monday morning which, again, is akin to throwing money down the drain.
Far better to sit down with your child NOW and draw up a plan for packed lunches, based around the things you know your child enjoys eating. Since most kids tend to be a bit fussy about what they do and don't like in their lunch box it's worth working together on a menu plan. My goal for this term is to have everything in the cupboards that my kids need for their lunches, and then leave them to pack their own lunches each morning! Stock up on sandwich cutters too - these Von Shef sandwich cutters are £5.99 from Amazon right now
4. Get uniforms sorted
Opinion is often divided over whether it's more cost-effective to buy cheap school uniform items (on the basis that they are quickly outgrown so it's not worth spending lots) or to invest in more expensive options (which tend to wash and wear better). On the one hand Lidl's incredible school uniform deal is pretty much unbeatable and launches this Thursday - you can pick up a pack of two polo shirts for £1.25, school trousers or a school skirt for £1.25 and a sweatshirt for £1.15, bringing the whole lot to £3.75 BUT you'll have to buy it in-store as they don't offer online shopping and it's bound to fly off the shelves.
Personally I'm a fan of Next's school uniform range - it's the only brand to withstand the rough and tumble that my lads seem to put their school clothes through. With adjustable waists, Teflon fabric to make them extra hard-wearing and next day delivery you really can't go wrong. It's certainly nowhere near as cheap as some of the supermarket brands of school uniform but in terms of value for money over the long-term I find Next brilliant for hard-wearing school uniform - and if you're really lucky you might be able to snaffle a few remaining
schoolwear bits from the Next sale.
5. Ease up on the late nights
Coaxing kids into bed when it's still the school summer holidays and broad daylight outside isn't easy but it's well worth making bedtime that bit earlier in the last week or so before the new school term starts. Try starting bath time earlier than usual or offering an extra story or two in order to gently encourage your little ones to willingly head to the Land of Nod at a reasonable hour. You might have a little bit of a battle on your hands at first but you'll be glad you persisted when the new school term starts and you have rested kids who are raring to go instead of tots who are too tired to face the demands of the school day.
And that's pretty much it. Get your shoes and uniform sorted, start a school cash tin, plan your packed lunches and start bringing bedtime forward a little in preparation for the new school term. None of it's rocket science but it'll help ease you gently back into back-to-school school mode.
We'd also love to hear your tips for easing the transition back to school - share them in the comments box below or join the conversation over on our Facebook page.