Budget the small things for your child's education


Cape Town – School supply purchases were just a distant thought during the silly season, but malls buzz with moms and scholars that are ticking off items from the school’s stationary list in January. Even more stressful than cramped shopping malls is scraping together the money to get your children school ready after the carefree spending of the holiday season.  

“Although South Africans prioritise saving for an education under the top three reasons to save, parents often factor in the large amounts such as school uniforms and textbook fees and exclude or underestimate the costs of stationary,” said Eunice Sibiya, head of FNB consumer education.

“Costs add up to R400 [see FNB’s budget below] for one child and this only factors in one of each stationary item typically found on the stationary list,” said Sibiya. “It is therefore evident how the costs of one, let alone more than one child can easily leave you in a financial tight spot in January.”

She suggests the following ideas to avoid going financially bust during the back to school season:

Purchase school supplies bit by bit

“Buying school supplies in bits and spaced out over the year when you do your monthly or weekly grocery shopping is lighter on the pocket than buying all the items at once. Buy the basics of what your child will need in January and purchase the rest later - this could be a saving grace after the December festivities,” said Sibiya.

Save and print the following:

Below is a rough idea of what stationary for a grade eight scholar can amount to based on a November catalogue at a leading SA stationary retailer:

Buying school supplies bit by bit also gives you the opportunity to teach your children about budgeting with smaller amounts that they can wrap their heads around, said Sibiya.

Once you have divided the stationary purchases into sections, plan a budget for each shopping spree and ask your child to “shop around” in the weekly paper for the best deals before you hit the shops.

This will teach them valuable financial lessons such as planning for expenses, staying within a budget and delayed gratification as some of the items might have to be placed on the list for the next round of purchases.    

Build up a stationary cupboard

A stationary cupboard or drawer means that you will always have supplies ready when the children run out of pens or exam pads and it often works out cheaper as you can capitalise on year-round specials.

Don’t forget to take stock of the children’s stationary leftovers at the end of the year, said Sibiya.

“Children tend to want new supplies at the beginning of each year when in fact they might still have items that can be used in their current stationary tins. Reuse or swop the items that are still usable around amongst the kids.”

Buy double dual gifts

The use of technology is becoming ever more present in the schooling environment and although lower grade scholars might not need tablets yet, it is likely that they will need these devices and laptops from high school (depending on the school that they are in).

Instead of incurring the cost in the New Year, be savvy and make a birthday gift out of it.  

Alternatively, use a match-funding approach to teach your children the value of money and the principle of delayed gratification.

“Make the proposition that if your child saves a half or third of the device cost, you will come to the party with the additional funds.  Such techniques instil a savings culture in your children and will result in them taking ownership in looking after their devices,” said Sibiya.

Don’t forget those rewards and vouchers

Various retailers have rewards programmes such as cash back or points that accumulate.  Don’t forget to use your points or cash back to save on purchases such as white school shirts at clothing retailers or lunch boxes at home stores.

Alternatively, if you have gift vouchers lying around for which you could not find a purpose, make them work for you by cutting down on your school supply spending.

Plan ahead for the rest of the year

The school year is filled with activities that will require additional spending. To avoid last-minute costs that need to be incurred but were not budgeted for, draw up a rough estimation of what these costs might tally up to by requesting your child’s school calendar and planning around sporting season, school tours and school activity expenses such as a Valentine’s Ball or Matric dance.

Based on this, decide on an amount that can be set up as a scheduled transfer to your savings account at the beginning of each month. On top of having peace of mind that there are funds available, your money will also grow thanks to compound interest.

“There is no reason to be caught off-guard when it comes to the expenses that seem small relative to other school fees. A bit of budgeting and savvy savings techniques such as the above can go a long way,” said Sibiya.

* What budget advice do you have for fellow parents? Email us now.

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