Shreya Bakhshi 8 Feb 2023

Summer holidays have ended and the first thing on every parent’s to-do is getting through the back-to-school checklist. While it can be fun for the kids, it can be a rather financially stressful activity for parents - especially if they’re trying to save. 

However, there are a few ways parents can avoid spending excessively and maintain their financial wellbeing, while ensuring the kids are happy with their back-to-school purchases. Budgeting specialist Vinessa Orsbourne from Become Wealth shared some helpful insights on how parents can save and budget to make back-to-school shopping a fun activity for the whole family.  


First things first, start planning:

The key to ensuring your financial wellbeing, whatever your need may be, is to plan. It sounds like a tedious task, but there are a few easy ways you can go about it.

“Planning always helps…Planning means no surprises,” Vinessa said.

“Knowing ahead of time what clothing, books, stationery, and equipment is required, will help enable you to get an estimate of how much you’re going to need to pay. Then you can start setting aside an amount of money weekly to prepare for the back-to-school onslaught.”

Some of Vinessa’s ideas for parents to consider:

  • Make a budget and include a savings strategy for schooling costs.
  • Spread out your spending. There’s no need to buy everything at once
  • If possible, look to re-use items from the previous year.
  • Buy the essential items first and then consider other items, as needed.
  • Having a clear list can help you avoid impulse purchases which will add to your schooling costs.


Next, start saving and budgeting:

Planning is a sure shot way to get ahead of both expected and unexpected expenditures, and you can use the above listed tips as a guide to help you kickstart your planning based on your requirements.

Vinessa suggests budgeting is the first step that parents should take when planning - but to successfully budget, parents need to get into the habit of saving. Putting aside a dedicated amount of money every year can help form a lasting habit.

“If you can get into the habit of saving a regular amount all throughout the year and even set up a separate account specifically for schooling costs, then you will have the funds set aside ready for back-to-school shopping.”


Now is as good a time to reuse and recycle:

Even though budgeting and saving are a good first step, parents always need to be prepared for some big expenditures.

In the past, uniforms were always the major back to school cost, especially for growing kids, but nowadays, technology seems to have taken over the top spot.

Most schools now require kids to have a laptop or tablet. A decent laptop costs upwards of $500, depending on the specifications and the purpose it is being used for. Before you know it, the laptop will be burning a hole through your pocket.

Vinessa said a smart way to avoid this cost is to purchase second-hand laptops.

“Refurbished laptops and tablets from a reputable store or from a school (where they have decommissioned products due to them updating the school equipment) is definitely a good idea. This saves you money and resources which is a plus for those who are wanting to live more sustainably.”

Uniforms are another item that can be reused and recycled.

On an average, uniforms can cost anywhere between $250 to $500. If your kids are still in their growing phase, this cost can go up every year.

“Second hand uniforms are a good option. Kids are always growing so buying second hand means it’s kinder on the wallet. You can often pick up good second-hand uniforms especially when the uniform requires jumpers and jackets which can be expensive brand new.”

It is even better if you have two children as you can make good use of the hand me downs for the younger ones who practically grow by the minute.


Take into account additional costs:

Lastly, regardless of how well you plan, there will always be some additional or unexpected costs that you might encounter. A lot of times, they can creep up on you slowly but surely. Things like school fees, sports uniforms and extracurricular activities can easily incur additional costs and break the bank.

A good way to avoid additional costs is to do your research and know exactly what you need to buy. Consider purchasing second hand equipment, especially items like musical instruments and sporting gear, which can usually just sit in a lonely corner in people’s garages.

But that does not mean you should compromise on quality, Vinessa said. Buying quality items means these items will last you longer and you can make good use of them.

While it may be a tough ask - “Ensure your children take good care of their extracurricular items so that they will last,” Vinessa said.

When it comes to set stationery lists, online shopping could be best, she said.

 “This is a good option if you know exactly what you need to buy. Often schools have a specific stationery list and by ordering the exact items required online, these deals often have free delivery which saves you both time and money.”

For costs like school fees, check if they can be paid off in instalments, so you don’t have to part with a huge chunk of money all at once.

Plan, budget, and prepare a list, well before your kids head back to school, so both you and the kids can have a fun shopping experience.