I am delighted to host a guest post from Savvy Dad Olly Cator who blogs over at SavvyDad.co.uk. Thank you Olly for sharing your Savvy Dad tips with us!
Olly writes about family finances, money saving and parenting. Alongside his blog, he’s also a full time primary school teacher. I’ve invited him over to talk about ways to make a child’s education more finance-friendly.
Savvy Dad Tips for Thrifty Schooling.
The costs of putting a child through their education can really mount up. The potential costs of primary schooling needs being around £600 per child. High school costs being up to double that, and university costs off the chart! This can really put a strain on your household finances.
My oldest child, Little Savvy, is due to start primary school in this September. Already, in the back of my mind, I’m totalling up the costs that I’ll need to budget for and planning ahead. Although he’s not yet started school I’ve been teaching in primary schools for nearly 15 years and gained some savvy cost-cutting ideas.
Savvy Dad Tips on uniform costs, quality and expectations.
First and foremost, speaking as a teacher… please, please, please label your child’s uniform. Generally the costs of clothing are reasonable at the moment. However, I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to be left with £100’s worth of unnamed uniform at the end of a term, such a waste. The costs add up! For the seconds it takes to pick up a permanent pen and write your child’s name, there’s really no excuse not to.
When sourcing uniform the first place to start is seeing if your school, or the parent/friends association, have a recycle scheme for old uniform. Failing that, most supermarkets use uniform as a “Loss-leader” to temp parents in and shop. Think larger than needed and “Buy July” ready for September terms. Aldi and Lidl for example regularly offer a full uniform for £3-£4 in total around then, but stock is usually limited. Prices then rise slowly but Asda George offer good value uniforms with an all important 100 day “satisfaction guarantee”. Slightly more pricey are the uniform offering from M&S, but they are the most hard-wearing I’ve seen.
Funding can be found too, ask your school about hardship funds if needed. Also, if you’re in receipt of certain benefits then possible “pupil premium” money paid to your school can be used partially to fund uniform. All schools have a duty to make uniform policies reasonable and affordable and should not be profiting from costs. A freedom of information request for how much the uniform costs a school wholesale can always be made if you feel the prices are not transparent.
Savvy Dad Tips on where to source cost effective shoes.
Shoes can be a main uniform expense, particularly as in general this is the area you won’t want to skimp as much. Invest in a cheap pair and they’ll likely only last a term. Whereas, with a good pair (and a little growing room), you’ll see the year out and avoid the false economy of a cheap pair. Cheaper pairs can be had from companies like SportsDirect and M&M Direct. If they’re not up to purpose you can argue for replacements or refunds potentially. My recommendation however is timing buying for sales periods at Clarks or Start Rite. We use a Start Rite Outlet here in Norwich or you can order online. You can also source Clarks shoes via some Brantano stores and online via ShoesForKids.co.uk. Keep in mind to try sizes in stores where possible to avoid internet return costs for wrongly sized pairs.
Savvy Dad Tips on school meals
From 2014, all reception, Year 1 and Year 2 children have been entitled to universal free school meals. You’ll need to register with your school’s office and if your child has dietary needs they should be catered for but again you’ll need supporting letters from your GP. The approx cost of a day’s 2 course meal would otherwise be £2.20. If you’re in receipt of certain benefits, you may be entitled to free school meals for longer. Consult your school’s office for assistance. Giving older children packed lunches can work out cheaper if you plan them well.
Savvy Dad Tips on school trips and paying for them.
There will likely be trips and excursions for your child during each academic year. Typically these trips will cost around £10. Often the school or it’s fundraising team will subsidise the costs to keep them down for families. But when you factor in entrance fee’s and coach costs, trips aren’t cheap anymore. If you’re struggling with paying for a trip, school’s can’t legally insist you pay. This is because for any trip happening during school hours they can only ask for “voluntary contributions”. It’s worth bearing in mind though that if parents and carers don’t contribute a planned trip might be scrapped. So be honest and don’t play the school for fools. However, if you have a large number of children, or your circumstances are tricky there can be no expectation on you to fork out. Some Local Authorities may also be able to provide grants.
Savvy Dad Tips on books, revision aids and learning schemes
Chances are your child’s school will have some form of e-learning scheme or online learning software to help boost an area of learning. This may be to support maths via websites like Mathletics or MathsWhizz, or reading via the many reading scheme offers available. I personally rate and recommend the website Reading Eggs. You can read more about this on the Savvy Dad blog along with other reading ideas. It fully supports early synthetic phonics, is cost effective for what you get, and it comes with a free trial. For other “material” resources like text books, revision aids and reading schemes you’ll be best served comparing auction sites to Amazon for prices.
The most useful sites would be eBay, Shpock, Gumtree or even local Facebook sale groups. Plus, don’t forget to use your local library.
Thank you Olly for your tips on to keep schooling thrifty!
Thank you also to Karen from http://www.minitravellers.co.uk for the use of her photo x
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