The festive period is over and the new year has begun. New year’s resolutions, 2022 planners and calendars, and of course the start of a new school year.
For parents, this time of year usually brings the all too familiar back-to-school shopping stress. The kids have sprouted a few inches taller, last year’s stationary is looking worse for wear and somehow the money has to once again stretch far enough to cover the cost.
Snazzy new backpacks, uniforms, school shoes, lunch boxes, quirky stationery, books and binders; the cost can quickly add up.
South African parents certainly feel the financial strain when it comes to sending the kids back to school. Especially after facing the costs of the festive period. And it’s not just back-to-school supplies, uniforms and school shoes. There is also after care, extra mural activities and lunchbox food that will still eat up a chunk of our finances throughout the new year.
To help you get through, here are 5 back to school saving tips to help you get the kids out the door and back to school with a smile on their face (and hopefully put a smile on yours as well).
1. Back-to-school lists
Lists can help you create order out of chaos.
A survey carried out by Game last year found that South African parents ranked uniforms (including those for extra mural activities) as the most expensive back-to-school purchase. Stationary, textbooks and course materials ranked second.
One of the easiest ways to make sure you only spend what you have to is by making a list of all the supplies you currently have in stock. Things like scissors, calculators, backpacks and pencil cases can usually be used again.
Once you know what you have, it’s a lot easier to figure out what you still need to buy.
Make another list of what you still need and check it twice. Is everything on the list really needed? Or is it simply a want or nice to have? It’s nice to have a new school bag every year, but sometimes a good clean will spruce it up like new. Encourage the kids to look after things like backpacks so that you can get a few years out of them if possible.
Hint: A new law came into effect with regard to school clothing suppliers to reduce the number of unique items that parents are required to purchase. Parents can no longer be forced to purchase school clothing from a specific retailer. This means you can really search around for new items and potentially save quite a few Rands on uniforms.
2. Avoid licensed and branded products
Licensed and branded products are usually around 20% – 30% more expensive than generic brands. Go no frill for basic supplies. During tough economic times, it makes sense to opt for cheaper brands to start the year. You can always stock up with higher quality items during the year if the generic brands don’t last. And with some luck, they may even last long enough to go into the following year as well.
For younger children who may want their favorite character on their lunch boxes and school bags, get creative. Buy items with the same theme colors as your child’s favorite character and spruce items up with licensed stickers or key chains. Your kids will still love their new school supplies, and so will your budget.
3. Ask for a price match
On items where you cannot skimp on price, such as art supplies, review all stockists and their prices. Ask for a price match where you can. Stores such as Game offer the traditional in-store price beat guarantee to get you started.
4. Look for clearance sales
School supplies usually go on sale right before school starts. Create a Whatsapp group with other parents or even hijack your neighborhood group and share any promotions and sales you find. Encourage other parents to do the same. Sharing bargain finds are an easy way to get stocked up for the year.
Don’t delay though. Traditionally, January is the ideal time to get those sale deals for back to school supplies.
5. Sell, swap or buy old uniforms still in good condition
With the kids usually growing out of their uniforms and school shoes by the start of the new year, it’s worth either selling your kids old uniforms to those who cannot afford the hefty cost of new, or you could even stock up on some second hand items yourself. There are several Facebook groups to get you started or check out Gumtree, Junkmail or OLX.