It is the back-to-school season again! The great "migration" of students is upon us. Every back-to-school season we are inundated with advertisements, mostly framed as deals!
This season, in one way or another, almost always leaves parents with empty pockets, sky-rocketing anxiety, and always in search of saving tactics to ensure a smooth entry into school.
And for parents who are facing challenges raising the biggest expense in the back-to-school season - school fees - it can be a frantic struggle to mobilise available resources including calling in favours here and there to make sure their children resume school with their colleagues.
One of the options available when thinking about raising the relatively large amounts of money, especially at the last minute, are emergency loans that can be granted by commercial banks, Saccos and even microfinances. But these are typically short-term and it might find one already servicing an existing loan.
Others opt to take logbook loans that are readily available to anyone with a car, you can get as much as 80% of your vehicle's Forced Sale Value, they can be disbursed as fast as six hours from application with repayment periods of up 60 months and if you choose the right lender, you can be allowed to pay early with no penalties. But this option too is not convenient for everyone.
It can be pretty disruptive if this season arrives only to find you unprepared. But who says you have to dig so deep in your pocket to the point of ending up in debt just to return your child to school?
Here are a few tips to get you going, and help you remain afloat during this period:
As the name suggests, this is a fund set aside solely for unanticipated financial obligations (emergencies). Even though going back to school is not necessarily an unanticipated obligation, you may need to use your emergency fund for paying for things you had not foreseen. This may include an increase in school fees, new textbooks, and even mandatory school trips - which are seemingly a necessity in basic education.
You need to make a specific and targeted list and then adhere to it. A lot of us love bargains and discounts, and since the vendors know this, their attractions to more significant deals may drive us to going for more just so we can capitalize on those offers. It drives us to get a lot more than we need.
While it may be alright to stockpile a lot of supplies that could get you through an extended period, you need to be careful not to be carried away. Be sure to stick to your list. If you are a little tight on cash, only concentrate on vital items. This may include but not limited to books, uniforms, shoes, and toiletries, soap, etc. for those in boarding schools.
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If you are the kind of person who tracks their spending, you probably have records of what you had bought in the previous year and their corresponding prices. It would be best if you skimmed through those records to know and anticipate what may come towards you in the few days or weeks to the school opening day.
It'll also give you a picture of how big your budget would be so you can pre-plan at an earlier time.
Check through your records to evaluate all of the expenses coming your way in the next month or two. It is essential to not forget book prices, uniform or sports costs and school supplies.
Once you have a list of all you need to buy, create a budget for the same. For instance, how much you want to spend on toiletries, bags, uniforms, etc. You could consider the following breakdown:
Creating a budget and sticking to it will prevent you from impulse buying, and going overboard unknowingly with your spending.
There is a very high chance that there are tens of unused pens lying around in your house. Or a backpack you used only once when travelling upcountry. Or a pair of shoes you bought for your child, but they ‘disliked’ it. It could be even a dozen of exercise books you bought, but the school at that time said they issue branded books. There could also be remnants, like toiletries, from the previous school term.
These could go a long way in cutting down your budget.
Instead of buying everything brand new, look around for vendors specialised in second-hand items, which are cheaper than brand new, but still in good condition. For books, just make sure you buy exactly the ones that the school requires.
Alternatively, you could link up with fellow parents and do trade-ins for textbooks. For instance, Your child could be moving from Grade 3 to Grade 4, while another parent’s child is moving to Grade 3. For this, they give you Grade 4 Books, while you give them Grade 3 books which they can give to their child.
It is cheaper to buy a dozen pens, or books, than buying, say, just three pens. You could team up with fellow parents and buy supplies in bulk, then share among yourselves.
As tiring as it may sound, walk to different vendors, shops, supermarkets, and bookshops to compare prices, finally settling for one with the lowest price, without compromising on quality. Additionally, some stores usually have discounts on selected back-to-school merchandise, so be on the lookout for these. Just make sure you stick to your list, and your budget.
On the first day of a new term in school, you probably would not need everything. Items required for classroom activities are definitely a requirement. You do not have a choice in those ones, but you should wait when it comes to purchasing the other many items. You don't have to get a new backpack or lunch box now. You may choose to go in the new year with last year's items.
As much as it would be exciting for your child to have a new uniform for the new year, the child does not really need them, with the previous year's still in good condition, do they? If you could be a little more patient, you would get the same stuff at a lesser price than they usually are during the back-to-school period when the demand is lower.
The expense of purchasing school supplies can be alleviated if parents encourage their kids to use their supplies sparingly and take better care of their school books so that they do not incur the unnecessary cost of replacing lost books.
Try to be creative by recycling and repairing books instead of buying new ones. Wrap them with covers to keep them in good condition.
In case you also do not have an emergency fund, this is a good time to start one.