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Top tips for parents on small back-to-school budgets

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Top tips for parents on small back-to-school budgets
Top tips for parents on small back-to-school budgets

At the end of every year parents of school kids receive the dreaded stationery list. This consists of a long list of required pens, pencils, paper and, inevitably, Pritt, among other things.

And as parents will attest, the list can include anything from wax crayons to toilet paper.  

But with 2020's lockdown still hurting pockets everywhere even as we start this new year, buying up the complete list might be near impossible for many parents. 

We spoke to Hardus Vosloo, owner of M.C.D stationery suppliers in Middleburg, Mpumalanga, who offered Parent24 readers some budget-friendly advice around buying school supplies for the New Year. 

Also read: Back-to-school stationery lists can be cripplingly expensive, so what are your parental rights? 

Ask for help 

If you're on a small back-to-school budget he says asking your local shop, who should have years of experience, to guide you in choosing the best suitable substitution product, if you cannot afford the recommended item.

Vosloo also suggests buying combined school packs instead of purchasing individual items at different stores, but to beware of mass produced generic school packs. "Make sure they contain the items required by the school, to save you a trip back to the shops," he says, adding that you could ask your local supplier if they provide a lay-by option.

The right quantities 

School lists sometimes include as many as 10 of an item – is it necessary to buy all 10 at once?

"Some schools do recommend 6 to 10 units of an item," Vosloo says, "as this is to save time for the parents from shopping for items every other week, and buying in bulk translates into lower prices."

However, for parents who can't afford this, "Buy smaller quantities of certain items, smaller glue sticks or two pencils instead of ten," he advises, so that "later during the year you can purchase the balance."  

The best brands 

Can parents buy generic brands, or are the top brands really that much better? Vosloo says this depends on what the school recommends.

"We are working with sensitive children and the teachers want the items to be the same. The main reason for this is that children (and teachers) get frustrated when the generic product that they are using is not up to the same standard than that of the prescribed product," he explains.

There is an Afrikaans saying "Goedkoop koop is duur koop" or the hidden cost of buying cheap, he says. "The more expensive products does last longer and provides higher utility value. This is especially true for pencils.  In the end you get what you pay for."

Take care

Vosloo highly recommends marking all books with labels and stationery, as a lot of "redistribution" can happen during class or breaks.

Most schools would also recommend getting a pencil case or bigger space case to keep stationery protected.

He explains that with most items being imported, the Covid-19 situation has not been beneficial to the current Rand to Dollar rate, which will translate in higher prices.

He also recommends buying everything from one store if possible, this will save you time, transport and taxi costs. 

"When adding up all the time wasted standing in queues and driving around town will actually cost you more than the money you are trying to save," adds.

"Education is very important and if possible try and give them the right tools for job," he says.

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