5 ways to save on back-to-school costs

Looking for spare dollars to stretch the budget into the new school year as costs keep rising? These expert tips can help get you there.

Come January, many families’ budgets have been stretched thin.

And with the cost of living continuing to bite, the thought of squeezing even more out of the budget for back-to-school costs is enough to make any family’s bank balance tear up.

The good news is there are thrifty ways for parents to control the purse strings.

5 savvy ways to save on back-to-school costs

Look for small savings

Financial educator Melissa Browne says if you can save a little bit everywhere across the essentials, it all adds up.

“For example, often uniforms are the big cost but with kids growing so quickly, look at second-hand uniforms rather than new and, if you can, buy a size larger to stretch how long they’ll last,” Ms Browne says.

“Textbooks can be another big cost – once you receive the list, look at everything from your local library to second-hand co-ops and school Facebook pages to find cheaper (or free) copies.

“With stationery and computers, keep your eye out for back-to-school specials, last year’s models, and use cash-back sites to save even more.”

Make a list and hunt for deals to reduce back-to-school costs

Make a list and, over a few weeks, spend some time finding the best deal on each item week by week, Ms Browne suggests.

“Chances are you can save money everywhere,” she says.

“You might think the uniform is the biggest item to save money on but if you’re able to save $250 on the cost of textbooks, then that is a huge saving.”

Ms Browne says if there’s one item where parents will be able to find the most savings it would be on computers.

“Computers would be the biggest deferral if you can use a zero-interest loan to spread the cost,” she says.

Never skimp on school shoes

Melissa Goodwin authors the blog Frugal and Thriving, so finding savvy ways to save are her specialty.

But she says if there’s one area not to skimp, it’s on school shoes.

“It can be hard to justify quality shoes when kids grow out of them so quickly,” Ms Goodwin says.

“But kids also spend all day, every day, running around in their school shoes, so comfortable shoes are important for their feet.”

Set a budget limit and get creative

Set an affordable back-to-school budget for your family then get creative within that limit, Ms Browne says.

“Make it your challenge that the budget is all you can spend, and enrol your kids to be creative with you, to think of ideas and ways to find what they need within that amount,” she says.

Getting them involved also teaches them valuable financial literacy skills, she adds.

Remember, you don’t need to buy everything

The best way to stretch money on back-to-school costs is to look at what you already have, Ms Goodwin says.

“Don’t buy new unless it’s necessary,” she says.

“Lunch boxes, bags, stationery and uniforms don’t need to be purchased new every year if the previous year’s supplies are still fine to use.”

More on budgets, plus handy back-to-school tips:

Written by Sarah Vercoe.