As children head back to school after the summer holidays many parents across Australia can breathe a sigh of relief. However it’s not always as simple as shuffling them out the front door and waving goodbye.
Parents might feel like they are just recovering from the cost of Christmas, so the expenses involved with the return to school can seem overwhelming.
However some simple planning can help to reduce the cost pressures of sending the kids back to school.
After a mortgage, education costs can be one of the family’s biggest expenses, so it pays to plan carefully. Some families choose to use a dedicated education savings plan, managed fund or a high-interest savings account to prepare for the costs of school and/or tertiary education.
By making regular deposits into the savings tool of your choice, it can help spread the cost of education and also earn some interest.
When it comes to private education, there are often discounts for paying school fees in full rather than in instalments. If manageable, this could save parents a considerable amount. Alternatively, many schools have a direct debit system where fees are paid regularly and can easily be managed as part of the family budget.
Take advantage of any family and childcare benefits available to you, such as the Schoolkids bonus if eligible. See Dept of Human Services here for more info.
When budgeting for education costs for the year, it can help to make a list of all the expected expenses. While fees, uniforms, shoes and stationery are the obvious ones, don’t forget school camps and excursions, music lessons, fees for sporting activities and different sport uniforms, internet access and computers.
Keep a list of all major events and expenses during the year so you can set aside money and won’t be hit with unexpected last-minute bills.
The cost of text books and stationery can be reduced if you shop around. Many text books are available new or second-hand at reduced prices from online sellers. While many schools also have sales at the end of each year for students to buy and sell used books.
Children can re-use any of last year’s items from the stationery list if they are still in good condition, such as scissors, pencil cases, flash drives and calculators.
For items you need to buy, try discount stores. Most chain stores have school stationery sales in January where you can also pick up cheap school bags, lunch boxes and other necessities.
Remember to name all the children’s items to reduce the risk of them being lost and having to be replaced.
There are many small daily cost reductions to consider that add up to significant savings over the year. An obvious money saver is sending a packed lunch to school instead of giving the kids lunch money. While it can be easy for busy parents to give their children money for the canteen, setting aside a small amount of time to prepare a healthy and filling lunch will end up costing far less over the year.
The start of a new school year is often the time when families review pocket money. How much a parent gives can depends on the age of the child,what they are expected to do to earn it, and how much disposable income you want them to have access to.
Many teenagers are “paid” for doing household chores such as mowing lawns or washing the car. This money can be paid directly into a low-fee savings account so the children are encouraged to save.
While you need to factor pocket money in when managing your household budget, the financial lessons children can learn ensure it can be a valuable exercise for everyone involved.
By following these tips you can ensure you don’t break the bank when the kids go back to school. You could even go to the head of the class in terms of future planning.