By Essie Bester
Having to buy clothes and stationery at the start of a new school year can give your budget a serious setback and land you in a difficult financial position.
Danelle van Heerde, Head: Advice, Processes and Tools at Sanlam, advises parents with schoolgoing children who want to save: “Be sure to do your homework before you start buying school requisites.
“Because this follows on the festive season and there is a long wait between December and January salaries, many parents make use of credit to finance the necessary school items. If you are one of them, you should have a plan to pay off this debt as soon as possible,” she says.
Use the following hints to save money while at the same time teaching your child to make responsible money decisions:
- Draw up a budget. Let the older children help you decide how to keep to it. Also make sure you stay within your budget. It is very easy to spend more when you use a credit card.
- Make sure beforehand what is necessary so that you do not buy unnecessary or wrong things. Make a list and stay with it.
- Check whether your younger children can use any of your older children’s school requisites. Find out from older children in the neighbourhood whether they have books, pocket calculators or even computers that they want to sell.
- Leave younger children at home so that you do not get waylaid when you do your shopping. Older children can accompany you so that they can help you compare prices and make decisions.
- If your children insist on luxury items (expensive brand names), let them work out how to fit it into the budget and where they can save. Or let them use their pocket money to make up the difference. “Remember that you don’t do your children a favour by giving them everything they want. The sooner they grasp the value of money and financial sensibility, the better,” is Danelle’s warning.
- Buy uniforms slightly bigger than necessary so that they can last a bit longer. However, see to it that they are not so big that it makes a fool of your child.
- You can ask the school office whether the school stocks school-specific second-hand clothes such as sweat suits. Such clothes usually cost only a fraction of the price that you would have to pay in a clothes store and children grow so fast that you will find items there that have scarcely been worn.
- For the best prices for generic items such as white shirts and grey shorts and trousers you will have to compare the prices of different clothing stores.
- Invest in good-quality school shoes and backpacks. These are hardworking items.
- Do not automatically buy everything new. Collect usable items of the previous year ─ those colouring pencils and files of last year that could perhaps be used again.
- Be practical when you drive around to do shopping ─ it’s no use driving 20 kilometres further to save a few rand.
- Do your homework. Compare the price of items in shop pamphlets and websites.
- Ask other parents whether they have redundant school items and whether they would consider exchanging them.
- Buy in large quatities ─ especially necessaries such as plastic bags for files.
- Accumulate a supply of stationery for those late nights when your child unexpectedly needs a pen or notepad, otherwise you will have to buy it at a convenience store at an exorbitant price.
- Many schools offer a monthly debit order for paying school fees. This could, however, cost more than a once-off payment. Do not hesitate to ask for discount if you have two or more children in the same school.
- Plan ahead to make sure there is always something in the fridge for the lunchbox. Small cartons with fruit juice and muesli or dried-fruit bars are items that can be bought in bulk.
- Before spending hundreds of rands on extramural activities, ask if your child can attend one or two sessions to make sure that he likes it and wants to go on with it.
Do your shopping sooner rather than later
Avoid panic purchases at the last minute. This is a sure way of spending more money than you can afford. Shop owners are inclined to push up their prices when shops are crowded with parents looking for school requisites. The very best time for buying school requisites is during the course of the previous year. Make use of sales to supplement your supplies for the next year.
Plan for the rest of the year
Ask for a school calendar that shows all the school’s planned activities for the new year. Then budget to avoid last-minute purchases. Plan for additional expenses during the sports season, school tours and expenditure on school activities. With a view to this, set aside an amount every month in a savings account. Apart from giving you peace of mind, your money will also grow thanks to compound interest.