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Back to school costs hit UK parents in the pocket

9 August 2018

Parents are feeling the pinch when it comes to sending their children back to school for the start of the new year, so say plenty of press articles and surveys doing the rounds at the moment. Online lender 247Moneybox.com have put together their thoughts on the matter and potentially how the issue may be getting worse rather than better.

How bad is the problem?

Most of the press articles reviewed by the payday lender show that on average a parent would spend between £700 -£1,100 per year to send one child to school. These figures take into account the money that parents use for school uniforms, school trips, stationery items, school lunches and after school clubs. As a result, parents are often left struggling at the end of the month.

Why has the cost of school risen?

Good question. The lender believes that fashion and peer pressure have a lot to do with it. The more advanced the fashion industry has become, the more children are likely to want more expensive items to wear to school. For example, the average basic school uniform would include a white shirt, black trousers or skirt, black socks and a basic pair of shoes that would last a child the whole term. However, in modern day society children are more likely to want an expensive pair of trainers to wear to P.E. or a more fashionable pair of shoes that the rest of their class mates are wearing. Because of this, parents would inevitably be forced to pay for a more expensive pair of shoes or a bag that is less likely to last the whole term and result in the parent having to buy another one.

School equipment

Another factor the finance operation brings to light is the fact that parents are now required to pay for all their children's lunches and school trips. Even those on free school meals don't have all their costs covered. As the extra money spent on sending a child to school adds up, the situation is magnified if parents have more than one child in full time education.

How parents could reduce the cost of school?

Parents could be left short of money at the end of the month if they miscalculate their budget or an emergency call on their finances crops up. Of course, parents could be sticking to their budget but the escalating costs of school could just simply cause it to unbalance. In these scenarios there may be help available from the school itself or the local authority. Help could take the form of free school meals or subsidised after school clubs etc. It's estimated that free school meals save a parent around £300 per term.

Another way to cut the costs of back to school could be to source uniform and kit from the school's second hand shop. With kids growing so fast sometimes the kit is in great condition. Similarly, if a child's uniform is standard, the supermarkets often compete hard to win business with school items a big draw. Take advantage of this and shun fashion for value.

Parents can also save money if they prepare their child's lunch by bulk buying ingredients and using value and discount supermarkets. Some parents have even been known to club together to buy in even more bulk from commercial suppliers to drive the cost of the items down even further. Obviously, this takes time and effort but parents are finding themselves unavoidably short at the end of the month at which point compromises may have to be made.

An obvious (but often overlooked) strategy is to try and put money aside throughout the year. Even a few quid a month tucked away can lessen the burden come August when it's back to school time. Similarly, some items that are required in August may be on sale at various points in the year so could be pre-purchased. It's been known for parents to buy items years ahead when a great deal presented itself including items such as:

  • Football boots
  • Musical instruments
  • Stationery
  • Lab coats
  • Prom wear
  • Teacher thank-you presents

Saving on stationery alone could be enough to tip the balance. Children today have such a range of classes and therefore require a variety of stationery items to not only get through the year but also be effective pupils. Stationery can add up to much more than parents think, as it is often lots of small cost items that need to be replaced frequently. Pens, pencils, pencil cases, plain paper, lined paper, calculators, rulers, colouring pens, paint brushes, lever arch folders, highlighters, scissors, staplers, the list goes on and on! One way to cut the costs could be to ask around if friends or family members (with or without children of their own) have anything stationery related that they do not use anymore or no longer need. Whilst a child might have to have used stuff, when it comes to stationery, this is probably not going to matter in terms of peer pressure. What's more a parent can draw comfort from the fact that they will have everything they need to thrive at school. If a parent can do this it may release cash that can be saved, spent on other things for school or indeed for general household spending including birthdays and Christmas. Another cost saving exercise could be to trawl the internet to get stationery goods in bulk. Parents may get lucky with a bargain here or there from some careful research.

All in all, it can be a very stressful time of the year where parents feel under pressure to provide the very best with limited resources. 247Moneybox.com truly believe that it doesn't have to be and that help and advice is available out there if required.