Three simple hacks to save money on back-to-school costs

Schools are back from this week, but while that's likely to be a welcome reprieve for many parents it's also an expensive time of year.

Following the Christmas and New Year period, the start of the school term coincides with back-to-school costs such as stationery, uniforms, school fees and after-school activities.

A parent of two children each starting new schools told Newshub they'd spent close to $1000 on school uniforms, books and other supplies.

To help parents meet this recurring cost, Newshub asked Miriam Fisher, Christchurch coordinator teacher education at Laidlaw College for three simple hacks for saving money.

1. Compare prices across stationery outlets

Nicknamed the 'Stationery Angel' due to her love of stationery, Fisher, a mum of two teenage boys, has compared the prices of stationery items for around four years.

She found she could save money simply by shopping around, comparing prices online first. Some retailers may offer a payment plan and free delivery, which could be of use to struggling parents.

"It might be $5 but it could be up to $20… when you add in a family with three or four children, the [total savings] could be $100 to $200," Fisher said.

The amount of savings depends on what people are buying. Items such as USB sticks can occasionally be cheaper if bought in bulk at non-stationery outlets.

Examples of stationery retailers for comparison of prices include The Warehouse, Warehouse Stationery, Paper Plus, Whitcoulls and OfficeMax.

2. Name everything

Lost items are much more likely to be returned if they're named, meaning less money is spent on replacing them.

"One of the best ways to save money on both stationery and uniforms, is simply to name it well," Fisher says.

And don't forget hats, lunchboxes and drink bottles, all of which can be reused the following year.

Clothing items can be named using laundry tape and a laundry marker, which may be cheaper than iron-on labels.

Parents who have the time could name pens by simply writing the child's name on a small piece of paper and sticking it on with sellotape.

"Because I named every single one of them (pens, white board markers, highlighters etc), they all came back," Fisher adds.

Miriam Fisher said naming stationery, including pens means there's less chance they'll go missing, and means can be recycled for a couple of years (or longer).
Miriam Fisher said naming stationery, including pens means there's less chance they'll go missing, and means can be recycled for a couple of years (or longer). Photo credit: Supplied.

3. Check stationery on hand

School stationery lists might include things like glue sticks, pens and highlighters, all of which can be reused rather than bought new.

As with grocery shopping, the trick to saving money is knowing what items children already have.

"I think it's that thing of not just tipping all your children's stationery into the recycling bin and checking what's there."

Among money-saving suggestions from other parents are to be proactive about what paid activities the children will participate in over the coming term, ensuring any 'repeat enrolments' are cancelled, and to join school Facebook groups to buy second-hand uniforms.

Making use of community connections to share transport of children to and from activities can also save money.