10 Thrifty Tips for Back to School Savings

Just when you think all that Christmas, holiday, and January sales spending is behind you… it’s time to attend to that long list of stuff kids need every new year for back to school! Tiffany Brown has some clever ideas to curb your back-to-school spending and take some pressure off the new year family budget.

1. GET PREPARED for Back to school

  • Last-minute panic purchasing tends to cost more in the long run than employing a little sound forward planning.
  • Start by writing a thorough list so you know exactly what’s needed, and make sure you allocate some time to sorting through cupboards and wardrobes first, so you don’t overlook items you may already have such as bags, stationery, or uniform items.
  • You may not need to get everything on the list at once, especially reading materials or sports uniforms and the like, so check in with your school to figure out what’s essential for the first term. Holding off on other items can help cashflow.


  • From retail sales offers and discounts or clearance sales to person-to-person sales marketplace forums, online sites and social media can be rich sources of trash-to- treasure swaps and transactions.
  • Uniforms seldom wear out before kids grow out of them, and there’ll always be people looking to offload what their children don’t fit anymore.
  • As well as uniforms, you can often find other items like school bags, drink bottles, pencil cases, shoes, books and sports uniforms or equipment through online forums, and save heaps on buying new


  • Local op shops can also be good sources of secondhand gear; some may even have dedicated uniform areas. Many school uniform shops also sell preloved uniforms and uniform components.
  • Buying a little larger will give you some more leeway with growing room, and making the odd adjustment to the seams will generally cost less than having to replace an entire outfit.


  • For BYOD (bring your own device) school families, technology may represent the most significant back-to-school cost, and it can be difficult to bring the price down.
  • Look for refurbished devices, as well as small loans or lay-by schemes to help with the cost here.
  • You may also seek the support of grandparents or other family members to chip in for your kiddo’s device. Don’t be afraid to ask a loving family member to consider helping with this expense in lieu of a birthday gift; most will be glad to support a child’s educational journey if they can.


  • If distance allows, have children walk or cycle to school to save on transport costs, or carpool with others.


  • Shop for non- perishable items in bulk to help with school lunch economy, and again, get prepared on the weekend for each coming week so you don’t get caught out forking over money for a paid lunch.
  • Always buy fruit and veg in season as it will be much cheaper than imported or out-of-season produce.
  • You could head out to buy direct from growers on the weekends to save even further, and if room allows at home, plant your own food.
  • Preserve excess harvests by making your own jams, chutneys, jellies or fermented vegetables, and make use of the freezer for pre-made baked goods.
  • Homemade food is always significantly cheaper than convenience packaged goods.


  • The value of spending a little more in order for items to last the distance can’t be understated. This is especially true for lunchboxes, drink bottles, school bags, and certain stationery items.
  • Seek a good balance between keeping costs down and making sure your purchases don’t break or otherwise become useless before you’ve had your money’s worth.


  • Once you’ve acquired the items your child needs for going back to school, make sure you label absolutely everything so you don’t have nasty financial surprises during the year when lost items need replacing.


  • Talk to Work and Income to make sure you’re receiving any and all financial assistance you qualify for to help with your kids’ education.
  • There are tax credits available for any school donations you make.
  • Individual schools may also offer certain types of assistance such as delayed payment schemes or scholarships.
  • Religious-affiliated schools may also offer financial assistance you can access by talking to the principal or church pastor/priest.


  • It’s easy to struggle through these difficult times alone, but finding the courage to connect with others can bring myriad benefits, so bear in mind you won’t be the only family on the block who could use a hand with the transition into back to school.
  • Establishing a casual group of families willing to share information and tips with each other can be really useful to keep track of back-to-school sales or offers.
  • Informal swaps can be fruitful, or a group of you might approach local businesses for bulk deals or even sponsorship.
  • Encourage your kids to be part of the budgeting exercise too – perhaps make a deal that if your children can help get all the items they need under budget, they can keep the extra few dollars as a reward.
  • There can be a stigma for kids who feel they’re always in the hand-me-downs or that they never have the latest pencil case… Instead of ignoring this reality, talk to them about it, and explain why you’re prioritising certain expenditures over others.
  • Older children may be encouraged to start earning their own money if having certain items for school is important to them.
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