The beginning of the school season means change is in the air, new routines, new attitudes, new classes and of course new supplies.
Supplies are unavoidable and a necessary evil. They are things your child, no matter their age, will require during the academic year ahead. However, you can be smart about your expenses and make sure not to go out of budget with these simple tricks.
Clean up time
Make sure you are not buying things you already own. Clean and swoop through your child's wardrobe and book shelves to see what is already at hand. If there are new art books shoved at the back of the closet or clothes that have never been used, give them a good cleaning and save on buying such items.
Uniforms can be a huge expenditure, so make sure to check for ones you have and give them a good once over, before you buy anything new. Your child might insist on buying 'new' items, but help them understand that if you are able to save money on basic items they can purchase some 'special' instead. Give them incentive to save and they will cooperate too.
Buy in bulk
There are certain items that you know your child will need throughout the year, so stock up on those. If your child is an emerging writer, he will require plenty of home and school books to practice on. So instead of buying only a pack of ten notebooks, buy enough to last you at least two months. Avoid going to supermarkets, as their items may appear cheap but might be of lower quality.
Make a weekend day trip to a supply warehouse and stock up with essentials. Keep school supplies separate from other stationery in the house and keep a check on where and when they are being used. Let your children have limited access to it as they might tend to waste supplies if they have a free reign to them. You could also keep a log book for your child to instil a sense of responsibility.
Watch out for food and takeaway costs
It will take a lot of energy to get through the initial days of school. From driving kids around to completing their homework, the last thing you might want to do is cook a meal! So sometimes a cheat meal from the drive-thru for the kids is an easy way out, but pay attention to your dinner bills.
Be aware of how many times you are ordering food or purchasing packets of crisps for your child's snack box. Instead, have a menu planned for the week and stock up on all ingredients. If you are up to it, you could cook for the week and freeze it, that way you eliminate unnecessary food expenditure and provide your children with a healthy home cooked meal.
Use social media
You might not be tech savvy mom, but that should not stop you from taking advantage of the great offers that most supply stores have during this season. Check their websites or Facebook pages to search deals. Alternately, join Facebook mom groups in your vicinity or school.
Chances are moms are selling old uniforms, text books or additional supplies that could cost you a fortune at a store. If you are already friends with moms in your child's class, create a WhatsApp group to buy, sell or even swap items between each other. You could also buy things in bulk or help each other find good bargains.
Stay away from extravagant goodies
Your child will at some point want the latest Selena Gomez backpack or a Captain America lunch box. These items are always more expensive and have less or no durability. But disappointing your child at the start of the academic year is not a good idea. Let them have one or two 'goodies' of their choice, but make sure it comes with a price.
They need to either help in chores at home or donate old clothes to a charity. While a strict hand is necessary to keep your budget under control, too much authority where your child always hears the word "no" will curb their enthusiasm. So work out a system to keep them happy while also holding them accountable.
Spread out your expenditure
You do not need to buy your child's entire yearly needs before school begins, you will not only be breaking the bank but season prices may take a toll on your wallet. So a Halloween costume for your child need not be bought from now. Wait for clearance sales and deals to pop up. Buy items required for the next two months and avoid planning to much in advance.
Chances are your child may change their mind or there might be a new superhero in town by then. So wait it out and stock up according to needs.
Set budgets and avoid credit cards
We use a budget while planning for a party, our wedding or any occasion where money might slip through our fingers. This should be no exception. Have a budget on how much you are willing to spend on school supplies keeping in mind other expenditures like school fees for field trips that will crop up soon.
Avoid using credit cards and keep cash aside for school supply requirements from the start. This will ensure that you keep a tab on how much you have spent. If you are close to the border line that Ironman cover notebook can wait.
While going back to school months are crucial and can set the tone for the rest of the academic year, the last thing you need is money woes. So hold onto that wallet, there's a whole year ahead. Happy schooling!
- Sanobar Mistry is a published journalist and currently works as a teacher in the UAE