Saturday, January 7, 2012

7 Lessons To Go Back To School On A Budget

This is a time of year I have learnt to do well. This year, I will be sending Madeleine back to year 6 for a grand total of $15. She needs her first calculator and since it will be getting 7 years of use $15 is a bargain.

Kindergarten (Prep) I easily spent $250 starting her off at school. Not counting uniforms. Year 1 it was around $160. I still hadn't learnt my lessons. But since then, I have spent less and less each year till I get to a record low of $15 this year. And at an expensive private school who always sends home a huge book and stationary list this is an achievement.

Lesson #1. Regulation school bags are the bomb. I paid $70 in Kindergarten for Madeleine's bag and was stunned at the price, thinking about the new bag I used to get for myself EVERY YEAR in the not so distant high school past. But I haven't had to buy one since. When they have a Roxy or Kmart bag by the end of the year it looks grotty so you end up buying them a new one for the next year. When you have the regulation school uniformed bag, they all look the same and no one but the kinders have new ones anyway! So $70 went a long way there. Madeleine won't be getting a new bag till high school.

Its all ready to go and I havent spent a cent
Lesson #2. Don't believe the school when they say they have organised discount prices for anyone who orders the school book packs through them. The stationary/book companies have done a killer sell job on somebody, because in year 1 when I still thought Miss M needed everything new I bought EVERYTHING on her book/stationary list myself in exactly the quantities and brands specified in the back to school sales and saved myself about $25. Just think what I could have saved by thinking ahead and buying in bulk. Which is what my school has supposedly organised.

Box of goodies - everything from scrapbooks,
folders, pencils, pens, its all there.
Lesson #3. Buy in bulk and put away anything they don't need. And by put away, I mean in a crate out in the garage where you can't get at it too easily. Because one of the magical elements of stationary is how easy it is for it to absorb itself into the household. It will become the go to box when you can't find a pen for a message and before you know it the pens you bought in bulk for economy need to be rebought next year. So stash it far, far, away out of everyday use.

Last years pencil case filled with rejects and pencil
 shavings as I go through and clean up the keepers
Lesson #4. DO reuse last years stationary. Just make it clean and nice again. Sharpen all pencils, test out all texta's and pens, clean up old rubbers by running them on carpet (works a treat!). Even empty out folders for reuse. Kids love fresh pencils because they are SHARP, that's the only reason. Put together sets and just top up what is missing. If it means buying a new set (ie pencils because there are no more reds), top up the old set with what is missing and put away anything else. Chances are good that next year you will need another colour altogether but won't need to buy a full set this time.

Lesson #5. Do some research before buying anything. Back to school sales are big business and the discounts are awesome but vary from store to store. I tend to work out who is cheapest for most items, then take the catalogues with me to negotiate the lower prices for everything else. Most places will price match if you are ballsy enough to ask, and I really can't be bothered doing my shop in more than 1 place if it can be helped. Lasoo is your best friend for doing comparisons before you leave the house.

I use an old Huggies Wipes container for all the
pencils not currently being used at school. Perfect
for home use.
Lesson #6. Do label your stationary. Every last pencil, rubber, sharpener and glue stick. Its great, it all comes home every year without fail. As well as some other kids stuff who's parents DIDN'T label it. Make sure you sign up to all the label company newsletters to get the discount codes!

Lesson #7. Last but not least, don't stinge on your stationary. Cheap and nasty pens will have scratchy ink that runs out quickly. Not conducive to learning. Cheap pencils will break inside making them impossible to use as the tips fall out as soon as they are sharpened. Its false economy.

This year we have so much stuff stashed away from previous years that I actually don't need to buy anything except the calculator. And thanks to Target selling it for $15, I am saving $14.95 off my schools negotiated discount price. And although Lolly will probably get the standard school book pack in Kinder (to make sure she gets the regulation bible) from Year 1 onwards I am set to hook her up.
Madeleine also needs a new pencil case since the old one is ripped, but she is keen to buy it herself from Smiggle using a voucher she got for Christmas. No arguments here kiddo!

Are you ready for back to school? Do you have anymore hints for me?


  1. im all done. the kids had smiggle vouchers plus $50 each for their birthdays and they have bought what they need and have extra money and i have told them that they can sped it on what ever you like. after some thought they are going to look through catalogues to pick what they want.

  2. Oooh you a lot like me! Trouble with me though is that I tend to forget what I've stashed away. I've lost 2 christmas presents and some New year's eve sparklers! You could also suggest the school pta recycle donated second hand uniform. Sell it for a dollar an item with proceeds to the school

  3. it would be great to let the kids do the stationary shopping next time. it'll teach them some valuable lessons on budgeting :)

  4. My children have an uncle who asks each year what to buy them. This year I suggested something off the student resources list. He listened and sent my daughter a mathematics set, along with diamontes to bling it up. One less thing to buy this year. I'm also re-using pencils/textas as I'm sure we could open a stationary store with the supplies we already have!

  5. I like the idea of buying in bulk and storing away - very clever!

  6. Fantastic ideas, now I just have to wait til my kids are school age :)

  7. Hi everyone, I am a kinder/ year 1 teacher and my biggest advice is to LABEL, LABEL, LABEL everything!!!!!! It is amazing how many times parents get angry at the teacher because their child has lost something and it's always the case they have not labelled it!!! I had a child 2 years ago who was always losing her jumper or leaving lying around the room and because her mum was AWESOME at labeling we always found the jumper!!!!
    Another tip is to get the school bag and take it to an embroidery company to have their name embroiled in large letters on the bag- it makes it easy for both students and parents to find their bag!

  8. running in heals is right gotta label everything. even though my kids still lose things i would never be angry at the teacher about the kids losing things. i tell my kids that they are the ones responsible if they lend their stuff to other kids they are the ones to get it back if it goes missing its their fault. They need to learn responsibilities.

  9. I love that Artline have brought out an ultra fine tipped permanent marker. With my husbands very neat printing we have labelled all the kids' school supplies.
    Last year's old pencils have become this year's homework box since they leave their pencil cases at school. I have small stash of extras which I plan on adding to as the year goes on. Our school books are included in our school fees and don't get covered - a bonus in time and money.
    We have a school uniform backpack too and the boys wear it as a badge of seniority, you can pick the kids who have been there since the school opened (it's only 6 this year). They all seem to have different little tags or things like Macca's toys hanging off them to identify them, rather than their name which I consider a security risk (although I never thought so when MY canvas backpack had my name on it in thick black Artline).

  10. Yes I have found the same thing, by shopping from the "spare" stationery I'd put away over the last couple of years (that supposedly were MUST haves on previous stationery lists), we were able to kit out our daughter for very little this year.

  11. I absolutely love the idea of giving kids a voucher they can use to buy their own stationery (plus Smiggle has a tonne of interesting and cute stationery). I am going to bookmark this idea for next Christmas!


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