As the summer draws to a close, lots of us have to start thinking about more practical things, like digging out our umbrellas from the cupboard and airing out our coats. For those with kids though, the end of the summer means getting the children ready to go back to school. After a summer of spending to keep the kids entertained, now you’ve got to shell out for new uniform and stationary for the school year. The cost of this can really add up, but there are ways to save yourself money!
How Much Does It Cost?
Last year, Oxfam conducted a survey to see how much parents spend each year to kit out their kids for school. A poll of 2,000 parents of children aged between 4 and 16 showed that the yearly cost for one child totals to around £3,033. That’s a pretty staggering figure.
The largest cost is paying for things like short outings, longer trips and other entertainment – on average parents would spend £944 a year. Clothing costs came second – £545 was spent on school uniforms, P.E. kits and other clothing needed for school. That doesn’t include shoes though – another £126 a year was spent on school shoes and trainers.
Other costs include spending around £333 on books and magazines a year, and £76 on haircuts. Over the 12 years your child is at school, you could spend on average £36,400!
Ways You Can Save
One of the things Oxfam’s survey found was that children have a habit of damaging or losing their belongings, which meant that 8 in 10 parents have to replace multiple items. Name tags could help if things keep getting lost, but there’s not a lot you can do about damage. Other than stopping these things from happening (which isn’t likely), the best way to save money when your kids need stuff replacing is to buy them second hand. If you have older children, hand-me-downs are great too.
School uniform shops can have a hefty price tag, so buying second-hand saves money, but there are also a lot of basics sold at supermarkets. Unless the school uniform is particularly unique, you can get things like shirts, skirts and trousers almost anywhere.
As children have a propensity to grow, it can also be smart to get bigger sizes, especially if you can take up a hem!
How To Get Help With School Costs
Cutting back on spending can save you some money, but the cost is still there. A lot of people don’t realise that they could be entitled to help with school costs as well.
If you’re on a low income or get benefits like Employment Support Allowance (ESA) or tax credits, you may be able to get extra help with clothes, meals and transport to school.
You can find out more from your Local Education Authority (LEA) – the government website can let you know where your closest one is here. They can let you know if you can get support with uniform expenses, or even activities like learning an instrument.
There are lots of different criteria involved when it comes to financial help, but the Citizens Advice Bureau has a pretty comprehensive list of who can apply for things like school meals. They also point out that even if your child gets free meals already, you should still let the school know if you’re on a low income or in receipt of benefits, as they could get extra money too.
When it comes to transport costs, you won’t be entitled to these if you live within 2 miles of the school, or if there is a more local school that your child could go to. But it’s worth contacting your LEA to check if free school transport is an option.
The best way to find ways to save money is to ask other parents what they’re doing to cut back costs. They may be able to point you in the direction of cheaper clothing and resource options, or the school’s Parent Teacher Association.
As the well-known idiom goes, it can’t hurt to ask!