There are a number of obvious and hidden costs involved in paying for your child’s schooling. By looking at all of the possible education costs, you can use them to estimate a yearly total and work out how much you should be setting aside per week.
1. Annualise all the costs on a per child basis.
a. For items you pay on a term basis, there are four terms in a school year so times by 4.
b. For items you pay on a weekly basis, multiply by 40 (On average there are 10 weeks per term).
c. Monthly costs are multiplied by 12. Daily costs by 200 (on average 40 weeks * 5 days a week)
2. Add up all the annualised costs.
3. Divide by 40.
This is the figure you should be allocating in your weekly budget for education per child. Now I know that there are 52 weeks in a year, but it doesn’t hurt to have some extra for unexpected costs. Not all of it goes out at once. Some larger amounts are paid out at the start of the year like the voluntary donation and school text books. Or you could pay as you go and hope it doesn’t drain your coffers but here is one way to avoid that. The year before your child starts school, start saving the weekly amount (an estimated amount perhaps) in a bank account that rewards bonus interest. Too late? Then start now and save a little extra (what you can afford) into that account. Once school is underway, draw down as you need. Set up a regular transfer from your day-to-day account to keep topping up the education account so that there is always money there. Some on-line bank facilities allow you to divide your day-to-day account into sections so you can control your expenses better; that way you don’t have to have a separate account for education. Check with your bank to see if they do that.
Other tips to reduce costs are:
- Check your home inventory first, look for stationery you might already have so that you don’t have to buy. Maybe items left over from last year, like pencil-cases and library bags don’t need to be purchased again if they are still in working order.
- The trend isn’t your friend: Trends amongst children change fast and what might be big during vacation may not be once your child gets to school. Everybody may be sporting something else. If you want your child to fit in with what’s hot then you should wait a month or two before buying items that change with fashion, like lunch boxes and backpacks. And usually, its cheaper to buy non-branded things, so don’t go for the Ben-10 pencil case. But look for something similar in colour. Even get your kid to cut out/print out pictures and attach them to their school supplies.
- Look for second-hand items instead of fresh-of-the-shelf stuff. Equipment like old computers, laptops and tablets are still suitable for use and are usually cheaper. Go to charity shops for stationery like folders and pencil cases.
- Families first: Have grandma spring for the cost of school shoes. Or Aunty could buy the pencils. Otherwise clearance-priced school supplies make great Christmas stocking stuffers.
- Use the list provided by the school. At the start of each year the school will tell you what they need. Don’t buy anything extra as they may not be appropriate or used.
- Go green: at some point your kids will be studying about the environment. Your green-footprint at home will leave a big foot-print on the future habits of your kids. So instead of using disposable plastic bags for lunches, go the brown paper bag. Or buy a lunchbox and use sandwich wrap to keep sandwiches fresh.
- Save your time and money by buying your stationery from the supermarket. In fact keep an eye on their weekly catalogues. They usually host “back-to-school” specials around the start of school year and so you can stock up the school stuff when you stock up the food stuff.
- Get a few mates together to share stuff. Have a back-to-school swap where you can exchange uniforms/stationery etc. It’s also great for texts and hobby supplies.
- Keep your eyes open: There are many retailers who offer back-to-school specials such as crafts stores, dollar stores and supermarkets, and sometimes they will offer discounts after school is well and truly running. Go off the beaten path for good prices! Parents should also always be on the lookout for discounts on-and-offline, and stock up.
- Get creative: Save money by buying plain, inexpensive notebooks and supplies (rather than their costlier character-based counterparts). Then, let your kids decorate them and truly make them their own. As an added bonus, you’ve just entertained your kids for at least 10 minutes.
Remember that these are just a suggestions and not financial advice; it is up to you as to how you budget for your child’s education. If you have some tips or experiences you’d like to share, please do so in the comments below.