How to handle back-to-school costs

Schoolgirls walking hand in hand at school isle

It feels like the summer holidays have barely started, but it's already nearly time to pack the children back off to school.

Parents across the country will be rushing to the shops to buy uniforms, bags and stationery for the new school year.

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Covering back-to-school costs can put a strain on family finances.

  • So, our money expert Andy Webb sat down with children and young people expert Kirsty Bowman-Vaughan to look at how to cope with these costs and how you can turn them into an opportunity to teach your children a very important lesson.

1. Start budgeting

There are a lot of things you have to think about when the kids are heading back to school. Bags, stationery, pencil cases, not to mention uniforms, sports kit and shoes.

All of this can really add up, so it's important you start budgeting as early as possible to avoid a serious financial shock the month before school goes back.

Start by putting some money aside every month to cover the costs and always be on the lookout for special offers, rather than just waiting for the back-to-school rush.

2. Cut costs

Even if you budget throughout the year, it's still worth looking for ways to cut the costs of getting the kids back to school.

Children can grow very quickly, particularly over the summer. So, it's important you think about what's going to fit them, not just for the next few months, but for the whole school year.

Buy uniform and shoes a size larger than needed, so your children will get extra wear out of them.

If you have older children at the same school, make sure you keep hold of any uniform they grow out of. This can be handed on to the younger kids.

Many schools and local organisations organise second-hand sales, and it is worth having a look to see if you can pick up a few bargains.

3. Introducing your kids to money

Getting the kids back to school is not just about buying them all the kit they need, it can also be a chance to teach them a valuable life lesson about money.

Money Advice Service research found, while most parents talk to their children about money between the ages of eight and 15, kids start to develop money habits from the age of four.

So, what can you do to introduce your children to money and how can you use the back-to-school shop to encourage good habits?

Even at a pre-school age, allowing children to handle money can have a positive impact, while speaking to them honestly about money means they're in a better position come their teenage years, when they'll have to start managing money on their own.

With back-to-school costs, why not hand over some financial responsibility to your children? Give them some money and tell them they need to go and buy their own stationery and any money they have left over, they get to keep. This is a great way of creating the next generation of bargain hunters.

This article is provided by the Money Advice Service.

Vintage money-saving tips
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Vintage money-saving tips
Back then there was no choice, because the mass-produced microwaveable meal was just a glint in a marketing guru's eye, but now, cooking from scratch can save substantial sums.
The older generation learned that there were meat-free days of the week to save money, and that if you had meat you''d stretch mince with breadcrumbs, or buy cheaper joints and use every scrap.
Perfect fruit and vegetables and top-of-the-range brands are a new phenomenon. Buy generic non-branded food and fruit and vegetables in whatever size and shape is most affordable

Nowadays we rush around the supermarket grabbing things we like the look of - with little idea of what we're going to do with it. Making a list and thinking about what you buy can save you thousands of pounds over the course of a year.

There's no such thing as 'left-overs' there's just the ingredients for tomorrow's dinner. The remains of the meat can be stir-fried the next day, the vegetables blended into  soup, and the potatoes saved for bubble and squeak.

Try an experiment and eliminate everything from your life with the word disposable in the title. Not only will you save money, but your bin will take far longer to fill too.

Before you bin anything, think twice about whether you can give it a second life. Think carefully, does your granny have her tried and tested tips that she has a habit of mentioning, for instance, washing out freezer bags? If you mock, you're missing a trick and wasting money and resources.
Cutting out draughts and insulating your home properly can cut 10% off your heating bill.
Back in the 1940s when no-one had central heating, people got used to wearing another layer at home. Try lowering your thermostat gradually, and only stop when those around you start to notice - you'll be surprised how much you can save.
If you save your washing and dish washing until you have a full load every time you'll save energy and save money.
Over the generations we have been sucked into believing the hype. In the days when adverts were few-and-far between, we managed without many of the things we consider essential nowadays. Re-consider what you buy, and why. Without advertising, would you buy any of it?
It's always cheaper to save in advance and plan a purchase than to rush in and borrow - which could end up costing you hundreds of pounds more in interest.
Older generations typically withdraw what they can afford to spend in cash and then leave their debit card at home or deep in their wallets. This has the advantage that they don't tend to reach for a debit or credit card and spend more than they can afford.
Because the older generations couldn't borrow their way out of trouble, they tended to plan more. Give your family a financial safety and a nest egg for the future.
Back when there were only a finite number of items of clothing to go around in a neighbourhood, people borrowed from each other for special occasions. Nowadays swapping and sharing can save substantial sums
Back in the 1940s when no-one had central heating, people got used to wearing another layer at home. Try lowering your thermostat gradually, and only stop when those around you start to notice - you'll be surprised how much you can save.
There was a time not so long ago when no-one could actually remember anyone who had actually bought a bike. They were passed through the siblings, then across family and friends networks, so that decades later, children were still learning to ride a bike for free. Of course it helps if you buy something gender-neutral, then you can hand it down, and reap the benefits as others hand expensive toys on to you.
In previous generations, neighbours would think nothing of asking each other to babysit, walk their dog, or to borrow a ladder. Nowadays we pay handsomely for babysitters and dog walkers, and each have an expensive ladder gathering dust in the shed.
The army of people who come to our homes to do odd jobs is a new phenomenon for all but the very wealthy. You may well have the skills required to complete these jobs, so get stuck in.

Ditch going out for dinner or browsing round the shops for taking a walk, visiting the beach with a picnic, or holding a family DVD night.

Nowadays we're constantly striving for a bigger TV, a flashier car and a better kitchen. Generations ago people never considered that they would ever be able to afford bigger, flashier and better, so they got on with the business of enjoying what they had.

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