Thursday, 21 January 2016

Starting The School Year

It's that time of the year when parents are busy getting their children ready for a new school year.  This is a post  I published this time last year.  I hope it helps you save a little time and money.

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 through 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 book list, 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 book list are a bit expensive 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 book list 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 book list 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 secondhand 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 book list by the time a younger child gets to that level. Book lists 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 book list 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 calculators 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 delicate 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. Always ask your children what they want in their sandwiches but make sure it's a balance of sweet and savoury. 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 ice brick in the lunch box. Frozen water bottles can leak and are best separated in the school bag. I like to wrap a hand towel around it to keep it cold longer.

* Water to drink is best. It re hydrates 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 regularly 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 themselves to anyone's 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. My girls have long flown the coop but I still have fond memories of organising stationery and getting ready for the new school year. I was the Contact queen!
    One summertime tip - freeze half filled bottles of water. In the morning, fill the bottle up and wrap a cloth serviette around the bottle and secure with a rubber band. That way the child has chilled water without having to wait for the whole bottle to thaw and condensation doesnt wet other things in their bag. I miss their school days.

    Cheers - Joolz xx

    1. That's a great tip Joolz. Thankyou xoxo

  2. Great tips Wendy! This is a fantastic list for anyone with school aged kids. Pinning on Pinterest! Mimi xxx

  3. Hi Wendy, I used this last year and will check it over again for this year, thanks for the reminder, Maureen

  4. My children finished school a few years ago. We did much of what you have suggested. Both son and daughter learnt to sew with the machine by making pencil cases. Old pillow cases are fabulous for this, along with used zippers from the op shop. When they got older my daughter made pencil cases for her friends as Christmas presents. I make my lunch tot kale to work along with my coffee. I estimate I save $60/week by doing this.

  5. Great help for families getting ready for school. I have found over the years that my children go to school in Term 1 with all the items needed in their pencil case then at the end of Term, I check it to see if anything needs replacing. To my horror every term there is more than one thing that needs replacing as other children have helped themselves. I always keep spares but it is very very frustrating knowing my hard earned money is being used by others. I will be using some of your snack recipes this year to try and save money and help the kids eat healthier. Thanks for your great ideas over your blog, it's a great read.

  6. I only have one child in public school, here in Oregon, USA, and you are making me feel like I have it easy! There are many different kinds of schools here, but the one she attends does not have them wear uniforms. We go from September to early June here. So, we got her a few clothes in the fall, and then she received some more at Christmas from relatives. We do buy a ton of school supplies in August, as that's when they go on good sale here. We do have to send a lot of pencils, etc. with her. It's a good tip to hold some back, and we do that. They do ask for an awful lot of supplies at the beginning.

    My other daughter that is still in school is home-schooled, so we expect to buy all of her textbooks, etc., but for the one that is in public, the books are all provided.

    You have a lot of good ideas.

  7. Great tips Wendy! I will keep this in mind when my little one starts school in a few years.
    Also on a side note when it comes to uni textbooks (they are expensive!!), sometimes you can't buy them second hand (often lecturers will change the textbook every year or two because they get commission from the publishers to do so which means EVERYONE has to buy a new textbook). In this case, it is actually cheaper to buy online as opposed to the uni textbook shop (they over-price everything, sometimes up to a 50% mark up!). is what I used to buy new textbooks, if you know the book name/ISBN then it will list every website that sells that particular book and will list it from cheapest to most expensive (and the price includes delivery). This saved me hundreds of dollars plus I always got my textbooks before the sessions started. Sometimes the uni bookshop would not get their textbooks in until 2-3 week after the session started (mostly good, but I knew some students had problems with certain types of books). Just something to keep in mind :)



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