Get Back To School Ready On A budget

15 August 2013

My kids love school but they’re probably a bit abnormal in that regard - and even they are apt to pull sad faces and start moaning when I mention that September’s not all that far away.

In fact my kids only have two more weeks of freedom before it’s back to school time - and I am already starting to panic about when we’ll get round to buying uniforms and school shoes, and wondering where on earth I put their school bags.

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 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, without spending a fortune.

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 rolls around but actually 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, and Brantano have some affordable options that are decent quality too.

Start a loose change tin for school funds

My kids are constantly tapping me for cash as they dash out the door 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 that 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.

Plan your lunches

Don’t wait until the first day 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. There’s loads of time left to stock the fridge and cupboards with handy lunch items that won’t go to waste, but 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 to leave them to pack their own lunches each morning!

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 often tend to wash and wear better). Personally I don’t think you can go wrong with Next’s school uniform range. With adjustable waists, Teflon fabric to make them extra hard-wearing and next day delivery you can’t go wrong. It’s certainly not 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.

And that's pretty much it. Get your shoes and uniform sorted, start a cash tin and plan your packed lunches. It's not rocket science but it'll help ease you back into school mode. Feel free to share tips of your own in the comments box!

TOPICS:   Clothing   School uniform   Banking

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