Going back to school in September can be an expensive business, especially if you’ve got more than one school-age child. But avoid the temptation to clean out your local stationery store in preparation for the new term.
Take it from someone who has spent years gathering intel on the best deals, what to avoid and extra handy tips to save money – you don’t have to bankrupt yourself to get your offspring ready for the new school year. Here are my top tips:
Back-to-school shopping: choose your moment
Don’t wait until the very end of summer. It may be tempting to deal with it all at the beginning of September, but shops know this is their busiest time for back-to-school shopping, so they don’t put out their best deals. You’re better off getting ahead of the game and picking things up as and when they’re on offer.
If you’re looking for stationery, searching “sodial stationery” on Amazon will bring up a range of quirky and cheap items to go in your child’s pencil case or on their desk at home. Do this as early as possible though, as delivery times can be long.
Buy in bulk wherever possible. It may feel strange to buy 50 pencils at once but it will work out a lot cheaper than buying packs of five regularly. You’ll also avoid last-minute stress when your teenager is panicking because they haven’t got any pens or pencils for school at 8.15am.
Say 'boo' to branded products
Avoid novelty, character or film-themed stationery. The quality is nowhere near as good, it doesn’t last as long as the plain stuff and might go out of fashion before the school year even starts.
Be aware of your budget
Tempting though it is, don’t spring for expensive stationery from shops such as Paperchase or Smiggle. They may look shiny and nice, but when they inevitably get lost or broken, you can’t keep forking out to replace the fancy pencil case and its contents.
If you’re buying a new school bag, ensure it is actually fit for purpose and can hold everything your child will take to school, such as folders and A4 books, as well as lunch or snacks.
Search for second-hand
If your child needs a calculator, maths set, language dictionaries or textbooks, look on websites like Gumtree, Freecycle or on social media buying and selling pages to get a better deal.
Choose cheap uniform
When you’re getting shirts, skirts and trousers, buy from the cheaper supermarkets as their stuff is good value and still decent quality. Plus, you won’t begrudge replacing it if you need to. Even the best quality white shirts and polo tops can go grey easily, so you’re better off with the cheaper ones.
School-branded jumpers and blazers can get pricey. Schools often have lots of high-quality uniform given back or in lost property and some schools sell it at a fraction of the price. Don’t be afraid to ask at the office.
Label EVERYTHING! You may not think it necessary but it will save you money later on if you put good quality and clear labels on everything your child wears or brings to school.
Shannen Doherty is a Year 4 teacher in South London