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Back to school budgeting

How to save big bucks and teach your kids to do the same.

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The beginning of a new school year is a moment any parent or guardian looks forward to. But in between shopping for school supplies, buying uniforms, and paying for fees and excursions, you could end up forking out a small fortune to support your child through this stage of life.

That’s why back to school budgeting is so essential to prepare you for all the costs ahead of you. Use this time as an opportunity to lead by positive example and show your kids what good money habits look like.

Here are 7 tips to help you save on expenses for the new school year and kick start your child's savings-savvy mindset.

1. Make a back to school list and budget with your kids

Dedicate an evening to creating a back to school list together - way before the start-of-the-year rush. This is a useful tactic for seeing which school supplies need replacing and also for teaching your kid the ins and outs of budgeting.

One way to help your kids stay focused here is to set a spending limit (say $50), so they'll have to think more wisely about how to use the money they’ve got. They might have to say 'no' to that $15 superhero themed lunchbox when there's already Tupperware at home, but simple stickers can transform the most basic lunch boxes for minimal cost

Sprinkle in some fun too! You could have them divide up and write down budget categories in different coloured pens.

2. Sweep the house for what you already have

Before you even hit the shops, you could be ticking things off your back to school list by searching your cupboards and drawers for necessities like spare stationery, lunchboxes and backpacks.

3. Shop around or try thrifting

As common wisdom tells us, don’t settle for the first deal you see. Always check your options, both online and in-store, as you could snag a great deal just by doing that. And don’t forget that many stores will price match too.

For big-ticket items, think about thrifting where possible. That could mean getting your hands on a hand-me-down uniform (either from the secondhand shop or an older sibling), or buying a used or refurbished laptop or textbooks which generally have a much lower price tag attached.

And rather than leaving your kids out of this whole process, show them how to compare prices and find cheaper alternatives, and have a conversation with them about how a few dollars saved here and there can add up to a lot in the long run.

4. Don’t fall for the cost of convenience

The morning hustle of packing lunch for your kids and getting them to school on time is no easy feat, and could make any parent want to rely on pre-packaged food items.

But opting for convenience comes at a cost - last year, Mozo compared popular pre-packaged snacks at supermarkets with the same snacks made at home, and found a price difference of up to 278%.

In other words, just by buying in bulk and going DIY, you could be saving over $1,000 in one school year.

5. Don't get sucked in by brand names

We’ve all been guilty of impulsive shopping sprees, but the back to school period isn’t the time to let our spontaneity run wild. Think twice before spending money on branded products for your kids - we’re talking everything from stationery to school shoes. After all, there’s little point pouring your budget into more expensive shoes when your kids will grow out of them soon, or into fancy pens when they run out of ink so quickly.

As a rule of thumb - if you have to constantly replace the item, opt for a cheaper version.

6. Get cheap and creative with notebooks

While notebooks are a necessity for school, ones with your child’s favourite cartoon character on the front cover aren’t. But plain and boring might not fly so well with your kid, who might be dragging you down the aisle towards those more colourful, flashy and expensive designs.

One way around this could be to print out pictures of that cartoon character for your kids to cut and paste onto cheaper generic notebooks before wrapping them in clear cover.

7. Open a kids savings account for their pocket money

Now it’s time to hand the reins over to your kids. Opening the Mozo Experts Choice 2019 Award-winning Smart Savers Account* for your child can help them learn about the rewarding aspects of saving up. The savings account gives them a place to stash away their pocket money (and earn interest) instead of splurging it in one go.

It could also encourage them to work towards financial goals in the months leading up to the new school year, whether that’s a small goal like buying canteen treats or a bigger one like upgrading from their old pencil case.

With these strategies in place, you can be sure that the back to school rush won’t leave a dent in your bank account, and you’d be teaching your kids valuable money lessons along the way too.

Katherine O’Chee is a personal finance writer at financial comparison site mozo.com.au

This article is intended to provide general information of an educational nature only. This information has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Therefore, before acting on this information, you should consider its appropriateness having regard to these matters and the product terms and conditions. Information in this article is current as at the date of publication. Terms, conditions, fees, charges and credit criteria apply. We do not recommend any third party products or services and we are not liable in relation to them. Any links to third party websites are for your information only and we do not endorse their content.

*Interest is earned for every calendar month that your Smart Saver Account closing balance on the last day of the month is at least $10 higher than the opening balance on the first day of that month (excluding any amounts of interest earned on the account in that month) and no more than 2 withdrawals have been made from the account during that month. You and any other account holder of your Smart Saver Account must be under 25 years of age as at the last day of that month to be eligible for this interest rate.

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