Going back to school is a difficult time for all concerned whether you’re a student or a parent, with all kinds of things to sort out along with the impending workloads, new teachers and exams from the child’s perspective.


As a parent it can be a blessing and a curse to see the kids going back to school after the summer break, allowing you to get your routine (and home) back to some sort of normality after the break. The new term means that you no longer need to worry about childcare or time off work which obviously costs you in terms of your holiday allowance – and even wages in some cases – but it also means that you have to spend your hard-earned and hard-saved money on the new school uniforms and equipment needed to get them through the next 40 to 50 weeks.


For many parents this is particularly difficult with whole new uniforms needed for children making the step up from primary to secondary school which can cost as much as £200 in some instances depending on what they need, what the school suggests and, most importantly, what you can afford as a family.


One really useful way of negotiating this tricky financial time is to spread the load of your purchases. For instance, at this time of year the children will be doing any PE lessons outdoors and will, therefore, need their winter games kit (ie football or rugby shirts, sweatshirts etc) and there is little or no need to invest in the summer or specific indoor kit unless they are told they absolutely must wear it.


At this point it makes sense to buy only what is essential according to school guidelines and this can help to save money for later in the term or year when you may have a bit more disposable income to spend on the remaining kit.


An alternative to spending hundreds on all new clothing is to look into exchanges with other parents. Those who have kids at the same school are likely to have items that they may have grown out of or that they bought when in the same position as you and they never got used. Similarly, websites like swap.com make it easy for parents to exchange clothing via the Internet so if some of the clothing doesn’t necessarily have to be school branded – like the sweatshirts, trousers or shoes – you can buy them for a discounted price compared to the full price tag from high street stores or the school shop from people happy to sell.


Equipment is another of the major expenses at this time of year with parents rushing out to ensure that children have all of the stationary and materials they need to get them through the term or even the whole academic year. It’s worth checking what they already have or what you have lying around the house before you hit the shops because in a lot of cases you can save significant sums by utilising what you’ve already bought as opposed to buying new. While you want the child to make a good impression, it’s more important that they do so with what they produce rather than what they’re using after all.


Finally, shop around for any offers on school clothing and equipment before you hand over your money. It can be a very stressful experience shopping ahead of the new term with a seemingly endless shopping list, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of getting everything from one store to try and get through that list. However, by taking a little extra time to get all of the essentials by visiting various stores or going on the web and comparing offers, you can find that you have more in your pocket at the end of the day and the kids are all ready to head off to school.