24 August 2017

Back to school expenses needn't cost the earth

Nearly 60 per cent of parents worry about the cost of kitting out their children for the new school year, according to recent Nationwide research*. 

Small wonder, when a third of parents expect to shell out over £50 on a uniform alone. But there are clever ways to budget so that back-to-school expenses don't break the bank.

Cut clothing costs

Almost 60 per cent of parents buy from specific shops that carry sweatshirts bearing the school's crest. But most other pieces of uniform can be sourced more cheaply elsewhere.

Hand-me-downs are a great way of saving money. If your child doesn't have older siblings, ask friends with older children if they have items to spare. If you're on a low income, you might be eligible for a school uniform grant.

Around 40 per cent of parents expect to spend £21-£40 on school shoes and £16-£30 on a coat. If your child is still growing, it's better to choose cheaper items that are comfy and hard-wearing. They'll be grown out of before long, or they might get damaged during playtime. 

Roughly half of all parents buy cheap skirts, trousers, blouses and shirts from supermarkets, where they're available in common school colours.

Economise on equipment

On average, parents expect to spend over £45 preparing their kids for P.E. lessons. This includes buying a kit, trainers, plimsolls and other sporting gear. Instead of buying these goods from specialist shops or department stores, consider trying discount retailers, which offer quality, branded items at knock-down prices.

Most parents predict a new school bag will cost £10 to £20, but you could get a brand new bag totally free. People often post unwanted gifts and unused items online. Websites such as Freecycle and Freegle let you browse and request things that locals want to recycle. Check out the Freebies sections of Gumtree and Craigslist too. 

While parents estimate that a lunch box and stationery will cost an average £8 each, these everyday essentials are stocked in many pound shops.

If your child needs books, second-hand bookshops near your school may have set texts donated by pupils from the previous year. Charity shops and online auctions are also worth scouring for bargains.

Be savvy and save

Nearly 40 per cent of parents put money into their savings throughout the year to budget for back-to-school expenses. But 80 per cent of parents buy what they need during the holidays. While that may be convenient, it could be cheaper to buy during sales periods.

Keep saving, even when you've accounted for all the essentials to get your child back to school. The school year itself can contain more costs, with nearly 70 per cent of parents having to pay for school trips. 

Many parents polled mentioned additional expenses, with over a quarter being asked by the school to buy books. Some parents also have to fork out extra for charity events and after-school activities. 

More than a quarter of parents expect to spend £6 to £10 per week on school travel. But a smart 51 per cent of parents save money by having their kids walk to school. If it's too far to walk, check to see if discounted travel passes for children are available in your area, or look out for a lift-share.  

And of course, make sure you're claiming any welfare you're entitled to, such as child benefit.

Start your child saving

Showing your kids how you budget and save money on school items is a great way to teach them how to use their own cash more wisely. You can open a Nationwide bank account for your child when they turn 11, so they can start putting what they have learned into practice.

The Nationwide FlexOne current account is fee-free and offers interest, making it wiser than leaving pocket money in a piggy-bank. Your child can even manage their account from a smartphone, making banking fun and easy.

FlexOne customers can also access a FlexOne Regular Saver account, so they can save up for special items. So, if your child desperately wants a trendy jacket, they can buy it themselves.

*OnePoll survey of 2000 parents of 14-16 year olds who will attend school in September, August 2017.

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