Monday, 4 February 2013

A month of frugality: Kids and school

I heard the other day that it costs over $65,000 to send a child to school in the public system from K-12 (more like $260,000 for private schooling). I find that quite daunting, having clocked up only four of the 52 years of combined schooling for my four kids which only equates to about 8% of my total spend.

With the kids settling in for another year at school and the school fees, band fees, text book levies and dance fees notes trailing behind them, you can quickly see how the costs add up.

There are a number of areas where you need to watch your spending in relation to school. Some expenses are fixed, like school fees, but mostly the costs are variable so you have some control over how you manage them.

School Uniforms
I only buy what we need, and wash fairly often. Three T-shirts, two shorts, three pairs of socks and a hat. Brand new stuff only looks brand new for a short while. Doo Dah got one new T-shirt and the rest were Nugget's hand-me-downs when he started school. I topped up the ratty t-shirts with some second hand ones ($5) half way through the year.

We got some hand-me-downs from a couple of families who left the school at the end of last year, so this term I didn't need to get anything (except a sport's shirt for Nugget). A lot of people I know get the plain polo shirts, rather than the ones with the school emblem on them, especially for sport and for under jumpers in winter. Same goes with plain grey socks  for winter, rather than the ones with the stripes on them. No one really sees them under the long trousers anyway.

I buy one pair of good school shoes (I tried the cheaper ones and Doo Dah went through three pairs last year which cost me more than one good pair would have).

We use the school issue bags which are expensive to start with but seem to have longevity (Nugget's has lasted three years and is going strong) and they have a library bag with their names embroided (used to be their daycare cot-sheet bag).

School Supplies
Using the school-supplied list, I go through the craft stuff we have at home and just get what we don't already have. So what if the black pencil is slightly shorter than the orange one? In a week, a new set would look the same. I buy things like glue-sticks, contact and plastic sleeves in bulk and divvy them up at the start of each year. I make my own book tags. I label everything and hope for the best.

School fees
My tactic is I hold off until it works best for me, so instead of paying everything in the first couple of weeks, I spread it out over the year. I never miss a deadline where the kids would miss out on something, but I don't rush either. You have the entire year to pay school fees and there is no interest charged, so what is the hurry?

School lunches
We try to have waste free lunchboxes most days, so I buy things in big packets and serve individual portions. I find this is cheaper than individual packets (however it is more time consuming).

I have a template for the lunchbox
 - a seasonal fruit item (strawberries, apples, banana, blueberries),
 - a vegetable (usually carrots, tomatoes or cucumber),
 - a home-made treat (muffin, banana bread, cupcake),
 - a sandwich or wrap (usually with meat or cheese), and
 - some crisps, rice crackers or savoury biscuits.

We mix it up a bit but with the fussy fusspot aka Nugget it is easier to do the same thing each day. Doo Dah likes variation so we give him leftovers sometimes, instead of the sandwich. The one big extravagance is they usually have a popper in their lunchbox. We are trying to wean them off, but it guarantees that they drink something during the day (Doo Dah is not a good drinker) so it gives me peace of mind, even though it costs a bomb.

We only do lunch orders twice a term.

How do you manage the costs of schooling your children?


Michele @ The Hills Are Alive...... said...

good tip about staggering the school fees instead of all at the start of the year

A Christy Production said...

I don't have kids so can't really add anything from my personal experiences, but I remember my mum only bought us tuckshop on our birthdays, and then maybe once or twice again throughout the year. If we wanted to buy it with our pocket money that we worked hard for then we could do that if we wanted!

River said...

You have a whole year to pay school fees?
I wish I'd known that when my 4 were at school.
I'd scrimp everywhere I could for the whole previous year so the fees would be paid in full the first week.

Seana Smith said...

Must saythat I try not to use any packaged foods in the lunchboxes, which doesn't always work and sometimes feels like a rod for my own back.

BUT I did give the twins a frozen yoghurt sucky thinggy today... they were thrilled, but jeez those are expensive.

In every other way I am bloody useless as being frugal.

One day I am going to take up the 'buy nothing new' idea which I found on your blog the year you did it - was great to read that and one day...

E. said...

We were lucky that before Girl Child started some friends changed to the local Catholic school and we inherited their girls uniforms. Along the way we have inherited other uniforms plus I kept all of Boy Child's school clothes that Girl could use. Ther is almost 5 years between them so there was a fair few items. Last year (year 3) was the first time we had to buy a school dress for her. I also buy the non logoed shirts.

We get good shoes because I have a thing about cheap shoes damaging growing feet but I have no idea where I heard that.

We also only use the canteen about once a term and try to avoid prepackaged foods for the lunch box.

Coal Valley View said...

I do every single thing that you do here. Must be the 4+ kids thing. Also, BIGW has the basic polo tops in "school" colours just before the school term commences for $2 each! I stock up on these big time. Our kids just drink water too. Last year I did the cheap $8 sandshoes and went through a pair almost every term so this year we bought slightly better ones but hopefully they will last. We'll see. Loving your monthly frugality posts MM. Mel xx

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