My daughter starts school this year. She’s excited. She’s nervous. She wants to make new friends, and she’s worried she’ll miss her kinder friends. She can’t wait, and she doesn’t want it to start.
She’s surprised and exhausted by all the feelings, and school hasn’t even started yet.
I’m nervous for the early days. But on the whole, I’m looking forward to it. I know that once she’s there and the routine kicks in, she’ll love it. In fact, she probably won’t want to come home!
But just like my daughter, I’m surprised – and my wallet is exhausted – by all of the school costs. And school hasn’t even started yet.
It’s not the school fees. They’re a given. It’s all of the other things that you think you’re aware of and prepared for, but which add up all too quickly.
We’re actually yet to pay an official school fee, but are already hundreds of dollars out of pocket.
Uniforms. Shoes. Bags. Readers.
And when school actually starts? Fees, of course. Then excursions. Incursions. Extra-curricular activities. After-school care. Maintenance levies. Grounds levies.
And let’s not forget keeping up with the Joneses. Privileged statement? No doubt. But it’s easy to say you’ll dress your child in cheap shoes and second-hand uniforms to save money. It’s another to watch their shoulders drop when you present them with their no-brand sneakers when everyone else in the class is wearing the latest pair of Nikes.
(Are Nikes still cool? Were they ever? Is the word ‘cool’ still cool? Clearly, keeping up with the Joneses wasn’t something I ever excelled at.)
I’m in the early days of this. But here are some money-saving tips I’ve picked up so far:
- Check the uniform requirements.
- If you have to wear the official uniform with the school name, logo or crest, then so be it. But you may be able to buy the items second-hand. Especially if your daughter is on the small side and is buying a second-hand school dress that was worn for less than a month before it was outgrown.* (*May or may not be based on personal experience.)
- If you have options, explore them. My daughter’s school offers an ‘official’ polo shirt with the school crest on it, but also allows children to wear a plain polo in the same colour. I bought a pack of five plain polo shirts from Target for less than a single ‘official’ polo would have cost me, and I’ve been assured by other parents that at least half the families in the school go for the crest-free option. She won’t be the only plain polo-wearing child in the classroom.
- Check the quality.
- I’m very happy with the quality of the Target polos, so that was an easy decision. But when it came to school bags, I wasn’t happy with the quality of the cheaper ones. I bought the official school bag that was made of durable fabric and came with a 15-year warranty, and I’m confident that choice will save me money in the long term.
- If you are able to, volunteering your time may cut back on costs. Most schools offer a discount or refund on any grounds levies if you participate in working bees.
- Investigate your financial options.
- Putting money aside in advance is a great idea if you’re worried that costs will become difficult to manage. It’s worth looking into saving plans and investment opportunities to provide for the future. My husband and I started savings plans for our children when they were born, and while we hope to pass them on in their entirety when the children turn 21, it’s comforting to know that the money is there to support their education should we need it before then.
My daughter starts school this year. She’s becoming more excited. She’s becoming less nervous. She wants to make new friends, and she’s still a little worried she’ll miss her kinder friends.
But she can’t wait, and she wishes it could start tomorrow.
And if the bill for the school fees arrives tomorrow? I’ll be okay too.
Is your child overwhelmed by the idea of starting school? Have you been surprised by the cost of education? Do you have any tips to share?