Kids heading back to school? Your bank account can get drained shockingly quickly this time of year, but planning ahead can help, says Amanda Morrall.
The first school bell of the year rings sweeter than a chorus of Christmas angels for strung-out parents at the end of their summer tether. But as much as the return to domestic law and order brings joy, it can also bring financial stress. Christmas credit card statements delivered at the same time as school start-up expenses can strain already stretched budgets to the max. Uniforms, sports gear, stationery, school fees, and camp costs can exact a heavy price, especially for families with more than one child on the school roll. The first day of school may blind many a first-time parent to bargain-hunting and recycling; however, siblings have a way of changing that mindset. Reduce your stress and save with some of the following ideas.
At junior school, when kids are growing like weeds but aren’t yet wrestling in the rugby pitch, second-hand uniforms tend to be gently used. Watch for the second-hand sales at your local school, either at the end of the year or before school reopens, and get in early. Better yet, start a clothing exchange with your local coffee group or community of mums and dads. This saves on money and the environment too. Polyester blends make sports uniforms durable, and you can find some gear at a real discount at your local op shop.
Most kids adore the school camp experience but they don’t come cheap. If you have a little one who just started school, plan ahead. Consider setting aside the tax credit rebates, and put this money in an interest-bearing savings account (that you don’t raid) so you’ll have these expenses covered when they arise.
Pack your own. School kits may be convenient but, as usual, there’s a price to pay for it. DIY and get the list done yourself at your local discount stationery store. Remember to label everything, so you're not having to buy it all again when little Johnny loans it out to a friend whose name he can’t remember.
Remember that public school fees are “voluntary donations.” As such, you can claim them with IRD as a charitable donation. School donations vary, but can cost between $300 and $525 per child. You’re eligible to get 33.33% of that back. Download the IR526 form from Inland Revenue’s online portal and complete it. You’ll need to attach a tax receipt from your school, so be sure to request that in advance. Remember, you can claim all charitable donations, so keep them safe and for ease of process, file them at the same time.