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Back to school in 2021 – budgeting more important than ever

Back to school in 2021... funds are tight and planning has never been more important.

As we approach midway through January, many parents’ minds will be focused on back to school and, particularly this year, affordability.

With the Covid-19 financial crisis having hit income, cash flow and savings, many parents will be extremely mindful of having to be frugal, the need for proper budgeting and, at times, to “mend and make do”.

Many families are forced to follow extremely tight budgets as the Covid-19 pandemic has hit household incomes.

Nozizwe Fakude, head of customer insights at DirectAxis, and a mother of one, says with schools starting later than normal, parents who haven’t planned ahead could find themselves under financial pressure when they need to fork out for uniforms, stationery and other back-to-school expenses at the end of January.

Why feeding the family just got harder

“It’s also worth considering that January will be a very long month for some families, as many companies paid December salaries early, so the December salary has to stretch further.”

A lot of companies were also unable to pay bonuses in 2020 and annual increases this year are a luxury, certainly not a given.

Spread the costs

By anticipating back-to-school expenses parents can budget and spread the costs, rather than having to buy everything at once at the end of January.

Another advantage of thinking ahead is that you can shop when it suits you and when prices are best. You should keep an eye open for bargains at the post-Christmas sales.

The finance and lending company spoke to some parents and teachers, who had the following suggestions to help manage back-to-school finances and avoid unnecessary expenses.

Check on that uniform and see whether it will last another term.

*Avoid last-minute surprises: Before the uniform gets bundled into the wash and hung back in the cupboard, check to see if it’ll last another term. Do the same with shoes, school bag and inventory the stationery. This ensures that you only buy what is really needed.

*Make a list: Studies show that people who shop without a list can spend up to 23% more. Find out from the school or other parents exactly what your child needs for the next year and by when. They may not need everything in the first term. Try to get as much detail as possible, so you don’t waste money buying the wrong thing.

Include the kids in the school shopping planning. That way they can’t demand things at the last minute that aren’t on the list. Picture: Giulle Pozzi on Unsplash

*Set a budget: Unless your child is just starting school or moving from primary to high school you should have some idea of what you spent the previous year. Alternatively, ask other parents what they typically spend. Using this, your inventory of what they already have and the list of what is required should give you a good idea of how much you’ll need to spend. Once you’ve got a budget, stick to it. It may be an idea to involve your child. Agreeing the list of requirements and what the budget is, may prevent them asking for everything they see when you go shopping. If they do, it makes it easier to say no.

Bargains and coupons

*Score second-hand savings: Children can quickly grow out of jerseys and blazers. If the school has a second-hand shop you may be able to find good quality second-hand items there. Or speak to seniors and school leavers to buy second-hand.

*Seek out savings: Look for opportunities to save money. Some schools provide a discount on school fees if these are paid in a lump sum at the beginning of the year. The same may apply to bus fares and car pools. If you are able, try to take advantage of these savings. Shop online for bargains and coupons.

Meander Chronicle school news

*Don’t be tricked by what’s trendy: Children can be very brand conscious and may want something because it’s trendy, rather than because they need it. This can be true of shoes, sports gear and particularly technology. Many schools require children to have tablets or laptops and most children want top-end technology that comes at a price. Rather find out the specifications of what is required and what the equipment is being used for. This will help you decide what’s most appropriate and get a good deal. If in doubt, ask the teachers or other parents.

Many parents will turn to online shopping this year to try to secure better prices. Picture: Bermix Studio on Unsplash

If your child does require a tablet, laptop or other device or new sports equipment, consider buying it as an early birthday present.

More Meander Chronicle news here

*Set a little aside: Inevitably there’ll be some expenses that the school didn’t warn you about or which you forgot. If you can, put some money aside to cover these unexpected items that might arise during the year.

“Most of the people we spoke to agreed that planning ahead, making a list, setting a budget, actively looking for savings and spreading expenses over time are the best ways of reducing back-to-school stress,” says Nozizwe.

For more information on how to manage your money visit

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