Thursday 22 January 2015

Starting The School Year.

Starting the school year can be stressful,  expensive and tiring  With a little planning you can breeze through January and February with ease and enjoy the moment your children walk thorugh the school gate.

My girls are nearing the end of their high school education with Jessica starting Year 12 and Megan starting Year !0.  We've been able to buy everything they NEED on our small budget.  I thought I'd pass on all my school savings tips to help other Mums and Dads.


*  If your child's school gives you a booklist,  go to the book shop yourself to buy the books.  Ordering online for school pickup or home delivery adds extra costs.

*  Buying from the book shop gives you a chance to see what the items look like.  For example we've found the pencil cases on the booklist are a bit expnsive and very poor quality.  You'll end up buying 2 or 3 of these throughout the year as they don't last.

*  When buying books from a school book shop,  pick out one child's books at a time.  This will avoid confusion.

*  Take your booklist on a clipboard and tick off items as you place them in the basket.

*  Go to the department store stationery sales for paper,  folders and pencil case items.  If the booklist say to buy a four ring folder,  get the two ring.  It still does the job and is a fraction of the price.

*  Check the online school book shop called  Sustainable School Shop.  This shop sells seondhand school books from all over Australia at very good prices.  Ask your school to promote this site as they get a small percentage of sales from the website owners ( not from your sales ) It's free to look at what's being sold but if you want to sell your own books you pay $19.95 for a year's subscription which gives you access to the whole website and everyone's buy or sell ads. Some years I've been able to sell so many books that it almost covers the cost of the new books I need to buy.

Start looking on this website early in December as some like to sell their books as soon as the school year finishes.

*  Do a swap or buy / sell with your friends.  I have a cleaning client who has two children aged one year younger than each of my girls.  When Jessica finishes with one book I sell it to my friend.  When her child has finished with it she gives it back to me for Megan.  When Megan has finished with it I give it back for her son.  This works well for novels and means we only buy the book once each and can sell it if the next child doesn't need it.  It's always a bit of a gamble holding on to books in the hope it's still on the booklist by the time a younger child gets to that level.  Booklists can change from year to year..


*  Check to see what your child has leftover from last year.  Sometimes they don't use all the erasers,  pens and grey leads.  I've found as my girls get older they hardly use colored pencils and other stationery,  yet the booklist says we need to buy more.  I get them to go through what they already have to see if it can be reused. 

*  Folders can be wiped down with metho and reused providing it's still in good condition.

*  As I said above,  buy all stationery from the department store sales.  If they are good prices buy a few extra.  If you run out during the year,  they will not be n sale.  Mid year tax time sales are not as good as back to school sales

*  Expensive brands do not always mean the best quality.  I go cheap on pencils,  erasers,  rulers,  paper,  folders,  plastic sheets, binder books,  scrap books,  scissors,  glue sticks ( for younger children ),  basic calculaters and note pads.   I buy better brands of textas as they last longer but I try to get them on sale.

*  Check the supermarkets in February and March as they clear out their stationery to make way for the Easter eggs.  I've found some amazing bargains there.


*  Check out the school's secondhand uniform shop for great bargains.  Try to get in early or shop throughout the year as kids leave mid year and need to sell their uniforms.

*  Plain school shirts, shorts, socks and hats can be bought at department stores at good prices.  Buy a few extra and buy the next size up.  These items are not available in term three and four.

*  I buy my girl's school shoes from Big W.  When Jessica started prep her feet were too small for department store shoes.  So I bought them from a shoes shop paying big dollars.  They didn't last the year and i had to get them repaired adding extra cost.  Most of my friends buy the shoe shop shoes and over and over again I hear how they don't last the year. 

Up until recently my girls have been wearing Grosby shoes.  I'd wait until the January sales when they were half price at $15 a pair.  They now sell for $30.  My girls tastes have changed and we buy the $40 Big W shoes.  If your children's feet are still growing,  buy the next size up as you can't get school shoes in term three and four and you'll be stuck.  If they don't use the next size up you'll have made a start on next year.

*  Don't spend too much money on sneakers.  Kids are hard on them and run through mud,  water and dust.  Try to buy sneakers without the mesh uppers.  Water leaks through too much ruining the shoes.

*  Buy a couple of hats.  They are very easily lost.

*  Buy school tights as soon as school wear is available in the stores and buy extras.  They are not stocked all year round.

*  Read the washing instructions on the uniform labels.  Quite often it will say hand wash only.  I've found that you can put these items in delicates bags and wash in the washing machine.  Always wash uniforms with like colors to keep them looking nice.  Dry them in the shade or hang in the shower.


*  Do lots of baking ahead of time and freeze where possible.  Muffins,  cupcakes,  slices and sandwiches can be frozen.  On a Saturdays I used to make up my girls sandwiches for the week ahead and freeze.  As they got older they helped me make them.  Alway ask your children what they want in their sandwiches but make sure it's a balance of sweet and savouy.  Cheese,  cheese and vegemite,  ham, sauce / relish,  peanut butter, chocolate spread,  honey and jam can all be frozen in sandwiches.

*  Organise lunch boxes the night before. Snacks and whole fruit can be put in the lunch box.  In the morning all you need to do is get a sandwich and drink bottle out of the fridge.  I group together the items for each child on the fridge shelf.

*  Cut up a few different fruits and place them in a container.  Melons,  grapes and apples work together.  Your child is more likely to eat the fruit if it varies.  One whole apple in the lunch box every day is not appealing to a child.

*  Chips,  muesli bars,  prepackaged snacks, lollies and chocolate are occasional treats and not an everyday item. They certainly do not constitute a lunch.  They are high in salt,  sugar and preservatives, are VERY expensive and leave the children hungry.  Try packing pieces of cheese and pita chips,  homemade muesli bars / biscuits,  homemade yoghurt,  muffins,  wraps with salad and salad boxes ( my girl's personal Summer favourite ).

*  Especially in Summer make sure you pack an icebrick in the lunch box.  Frozen water bottles can leak and are best separated in the school bag.  I like to wrap a hand towel arround it to keep it cold longer.

*  Water to drink is best.  It rehydrates the body quicker than anything else on a hot day.


*  Make sure you label everything.  It sounds obvious but you should see the pile of unmarked clothes and drink bottles in lost and found. Whether you use permanent markers,  sticky labels,  iron on tags, or engraving,  make sure you label in a couple of places on each item.  Check regulary that the label is still readable.

*  Do a trial run with the uniform and make sure it all fits well.  Get you child to wear the school shoes for a day to wear in a little.  Label the school shoes.

*  No mater what the school notice says,  don't send every item of stationery to school on the first day / week or month.    They don't need ten pens in one go.  I've found that other kids help them selves to anyones stationery and you'll be left with nothing.  I bag up extra stationery for my girls and place it in the top of their wardrobes.  They help themselves when they need more.

*  Unpack your child's school bag at the end of each day.  This is where you;ll find the school notices and leftover food.  Check that your child has bought home their own uniform.     


  1. I bought Columbine cotton rich tights for school. Made in New Zealand, Available at Myer and some school uniform retailers. They were not cheap, but they did last 6 years of High school. I washed them in the machine in a wash bag.
    Also check on Gumtree for uniform and textbooks.
    I borrowed last years English text from the Library. I went two suburbs away and saved $23.95. And gave it back when finished. Was only used for two weeks.

  2. Dear Wendy,
    What a fabulous post! It's almost like a tutorial and has so many tips in it. I don't have children at school now, but for all the mum's that do, this will be a very helpful resource.
    Love Helen

  3. Hi Wendy

    My girls are also going into year 12 and 10, they are the last of my five children at high school now. They both have very hard to fit feet so school shoes are expensive but since they have stopped growing their shoes do last a lot longer. Both girls were bought school shoes in January of 2013 and one pair are still going strong and my other daughter is wearing a pair of my "nurses shoes" this year as they are school regulation colour and I bought them for myself but they were not wide enough for me, they fit her perfectly. Their school shoes when I last bought them were about $100 per pair but as I said we certainly got good wear out of them, which is great.

    Pencil cases were reused from last year by both girls. One darling daughter had lost her Graphic calculator but I rang the school last week and they had it turn up so that saved me another $200. It paid for me to ask as it was found after the end of term in the big clean up.

    All our folders are reused this year and I only needed to buy one and I only needed two display folders so it was a cheap year for stationary this time around.

    One hint though is look at garage sales for pencils, pens and textas, I got a huge bundle of coloured pencils, pens and stationary bits at a garage sale three years ago and it has served us very well since then.

    I hope your girls enjoy their return to of mine asked for a vegemite roll for their first day back which suits me fine.


  4. Hi Wendy, thanks so much for this post as I emailed ACA to ask if you were going to do a story on this very subject. So many wonderful tips, it's like you can read our minds as to what to post next, Thanks, Maureen


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