Back to school, the most wonderful time of year! In the final rush to find school shoes and get everything for the PE kit, you can find yourself spending a lot of money! Here’s a handy list of back to school savings to help you stay frugal in the school year!
See what you already have
For easy back to school savings, check out our checklist of everything you’ll need for back to school. Print it out and stick it on the fridge. Go through each section one at a time – what do you already have? What do you need to buy? What will be provided by the school?
There’s no point buying new stationery if you already have enough of it at home – the same goes for water bottles and lunch boxes. Take a look around your home and see what you already have.
It’s likely that pencils will just need to be sharpened, and any pens you have hanging around will be sure to have ink left in them. Sure, they won’t have that new stationery feeling but you’ll be helping the environment as well as your wallet!
Most schools will give your children notebooks, so you won’t need to get new ones yourself.
Find out what else you need for school
A lot of stationary will be at school already, so you won’t need to buy them, but make sure you have the essentials such as:
- Pencil case – make sure this holds everything, you don’t want leaking pens at the bottom of the bag
- Pens – be sure to make sure you have the right type of pen – some schools have a strict no-biro rule or would prefer it if you didn’t use one that needs ink cartridges
- Pencils – a variety of different pencils, as well as coloured pencils
- Pencil sharpener – Make sure you have a good one, preferably with a casing to hold the sharpenings
- Ruler – a 15cm one will do, as long as you can use it to draw a straight line!
- Rubber – essential for maths lessons!
- Calculator – check to find out if you need a scientific calculator, and whether you’ll need a specific brand or type.
- Highlighters – ideally, have a selection of colours.
Mix up school lunches
Like all meal prep, school lunches can be tiring. You want to keep it interesting while being able to make quick lunches. It can be healthier and cheaper to send your kids to school with a packed lunch every day. Here are some ideas for easy back to school savings:
Use small containers to make little handy fruit pots. Sliced strawberries or blueberries in a small Tupperware are a healthy snack for breaks. You can put frozen fruit such as mango or raspberries in these pots too – they’ll have defrosted by the time they get around to eating them. Avoid using single-use bags for these. Small containers don’t need to be replaced and don’t add as much waste into the environment.
If you’re sending your child to school every morning with a plastic bottle of water, you’re wasting your money. You have fresh drinking water straight from the tap, just buy your child a refillable water bottle and fill it up every day. They’ll be able to fill it up at school as well if they run out.
You don’t necessarily need to buy small pots of yogurt – buy a bigger pot at a much lower cost and decant it into small containers.
To keep your child’s lunches interesting, try sending them to school with the leftovers from the night before because if it tastes nice cold, they could be having a different meal every day, and getting all the nutrition they need.
Homemade trail mix
Try making your own trail mix. Just choose a selection of different nuts and seeds that your children like to eat, add in some dried fruit and some chocolate chips or buttons. This is really versatile, so you can change it up all the time. Try some of my favourites below:
- Black forest: dried cranberries, almonds, and dark chocolate
- Bakewell: dried cherries or cranberries, almonds, and white chocolate chips or buttons.
- Chocolate Peanut: peanuts, dried bananas, chocolate chips, Reese’s Pieces.
- Tropical: dried coconut, dried mango, cashews, brazil nuts, dried banana.
- Nutella: chocolate chips, hazelnuts, almonds, raisins.
See if your children want to help you create this. You can make it up together in a large container, and they can take a scoop out each day. When it’s empty, you try out a new recipe. Bear in mind, however, that schools may have policies against nuts in case of allergic reactions. Be sure to check with parents and teachers first!
Hack the school uniform
The main supermarkets all sell a range of school uniforms at a considerably lower cost. If you shop around you can find everything you need and still have change in your pocket. For back to school savings, have a look around your local ones to see what you can find.
Starting your search for uniform early will ensure that the cheapest products aren’t sold out when you intend to buy. Make yourself aware of the dates that the discount stores release their uniforms so you can check it out right away.
Some Aldi shoppers are known to have set alarms for the middle of the night on the day of release to buy school uniforms online.
I have fond memories of being sent to school with a hand me down rugby jumper in my PE kit that reached my knees. Don’t go this far – I’m pretty sure that rugby jumper would still be too big for me. You’ll benefit from buying something that’s a little bit roomy for your child to grow into.
You’ll thank yourself later when you realise that you don’t need to buy an entirely new uniform halfway through the school year.
See if you can get help
Some parents might be eligible to get help with the costs of school uniforms. This is a good back to school savings solution if you’re worried. Find out if you’re eligible here.
School shoes can be pricey, but they don’t have to be! Once again – shop around to see if you can find a great deal.
I would recommend that you don’t go more than one size over your child’s size and that you have your child’s feet measured professionally. Clarks will do this for free, with no expectation for you to buy – just try to catch them on a quiet day. The final two weeks before schools return are their busiest therefore starting early is a good idea here too.
Think about the quality of the shoe as well. You can buy a cheap pair, but how long will they last you? Will you be back in two weeks to buy another pair? Check the reviews online to make sure that your child’s shoes will last until they don’t fit. You might spend more per pair of shoes but save money in the long term.
In some cases, you might need to buy revision books or textbooks for your children which could work out at up to £20 each. The first thing I would suggest for back to school savings is to see if anyone moving to the year above have one they’re willing to sell you.
If your school doesn’t have a book sale or book swap set up, then see if you can set one up. Even if they’re slightly out of date textbooks, they won’t always have changed dramatically.
If this isn’t an option, take a look online. Amazon Marketplace has second-hand books, have a look to see if you can get a better price there.
Budget for school trips
At the beginning of term ask for information for any trips that you’ll be expected to pay for during the year. If you know about them then you’ll be able to work them into your budget by putting money aside every month to pay for them. Think about any extra kit they’ll be expected to have as well.
If any of the trips require them to travel abroad, check they have a valid passport and European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
Now, you’re ready! Make sure you take the obligatory photo of your children in their school uniform; you’ll want to look back on them later on. For more family budgeting tips, click here
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Last updated by Robert Edwards, June 2022