Back to school without breaking the bank

Monday, December 17, 2012
Back to school savings

Although the summer holidays have barely started, it won't be long before the new school year rolls around again and all the expenses that come with it — school fees, uniforms, text books, stationery and sporting equipment, just to name a few!

It can be a financially stressful time for parents, especially if they're still recovering from the cost of Christmas.

However, by planning ahead there are some simple ways parents can save on back-to-school costs.

Six steps for saving on back to school costs

1. Plan ahead: Try to regularly set money aside, so the cost of uniforms, books and fees are not as much of a strain at the beginning of each school year. There are a myriad of ways to save including high interest-bearing savings accounts, mortgage offset accounts and managed funds.

2. Pay fees by direct debit: With an increasing number of parents choosing private education, the cost of schooling is now a major financial pressure for many families. If you pay private school fees, ask the school about a direct debit plan that allows you to pay monthly so you can spread the cost out evenly over the term.

3. Save on uniforms: Consider buying second-hand from the school and try to sell any uniform pieces your children have grown out of to get back some hard-earned cash. Also, some public primary schools allow students to wear cheaper generic uniforms which can be purchased from chain stores.

4. Budget for extras: Don't forget to budget for school camps, excursions and any extra-curricular activities such as sport or music. Simply by being more aware of the costs you're likely to incur over the course of the year allows you to break them down into more manageable weekly amounts.

5. Limit tuckshop: With many families being time-poor these days, it's often easier to send your kids to school with lunch money for the canteen. If they're buying morning tea, a drink and lunch several times a week, the cost can really add up. By setting aside a small amount of time the night before or in the morning, you can make a nutritious and filling lunch at a fraction of the cost. Or even better, teach kids how to make their own lunch.

6. Save on books: Textbooks are expensive and usually only required for one year, so it's worth investigating whether your school has a second-hand textbook scheme or a book swap program with other families. For novels and other books, don't forget to check if the title is available in your local library before rushing out to buy a brand new copy.

By taking a little extra time to plan and get organised, your family will make it through the 2013 school year with flying colours.

Dianne Charman is an AMP financial planner and mother of two.

Dianne Charman is an Authorised Representative of AMP Financial Planning Pty Ltd, ABN 89 051 208 327, AFS Licence No. 232706. Any advice given is general only and has not taken into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Because of this, before acting on any advice, you should consult a financial planner to consider how appropriate the advice is to your objectives, financial situation and needs.

To find your nearest AMP financial planner visit www.amp.com.au/findaplanner.

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