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Back-to-school guide 2024: For you and your child

Are you and your kids ready for the upcoming school year? Get organised with these handy tips.

Is your child ready to go back to school? For parents, it's hard to tell for certain because each child is different. Some kids may seem more ready than others, but some might be a bit nervous about what lies ahead.

School readiness is about more than just being able to count or read and write. It's also about being able to tackle the different challenges of going to the school head-on. Readiness involves being socially and emotionally capable of dealing with other kids, learning to share and resolving conflict. In this article, we'll give you some tips on how to ease your child into schooling.

parents with kidsTips for your child's first school year

  • Talk regularly about school. Prepare your child by regularly reminding them about going to school. Encourage them to talk about how they're feeling so that any fears can be addressed early on.
  • Prepare and eat packed lunches at home. This might seem like a small thing, but some children do worry about eating away from home. Show them what their packed lunch would look like so that they can get used to it before the term starts.
  • Create a school schedule. Children need routines, but as soon as they start school, their old routine will change. Write out their new routine and discuss what they can look forward to.
  • Arrange a play date. If you know other kids who will be in school with your child, arrange a play date with them. Seeing a familiar face can help your child to feel more at ease in new surroundings.
  • Do a dry run. Get your child ready for his or her first day at school by doing a dry run a couple of days before school starts. Wake them up early, prepare a packed lunch and get them to dress in their school uniform. That way, they'll know what to expect on their real first day.

Finally, it's important to note that parents can also experience a certain amount of distress over sending their child to school, particularly if your child is going for the first time. This reaction is normal and should be expected.

You can minimise this worry by getting to know the school staff and other parents. Take heart in the fact that your child is now exploring the big and exciting world of learning.

Tips for going back to school

  • Buy school supplies early. Bookstores are usually packed at the start of the school year. Avoid the rush by buying all the necessary school supplies early. Use a checklist to make sure that you've got everything your child needs.
  • Re-establish routines. During the summer break, your child most likely had no strict mealtimes or bedtime routines. It can take a week before your child gets used to the school routine, so start waking up early before term starts.
  • Buy clothing essentials. Be sure to buy uniforms, socks and shoes early. This helps you avoid panic the day before school starts.
  • Set the alarm clock. Being on time is the best way to ensure that your child understands the importance of running to a schedule.
  • Create a meal plan. This enables you and your child to have a balanced diet throughout the year.
  • Use a checklist. Having an "assignment notebook" is a must for any student. It ensures that your child won't forget their homework assignments or other tasks they need to get done.

Back-to-school shopping guides

Prepare your child by stocking up on everything they need for the school year with the help of one of our handy guides:

Cheap school supplies

It might be nice to send your children off to school with shiny new things, but for many families, that's not always possible. Fortunately, there are ways to get great buys at low prices. Here are some tips on how to get the cheapest school supplies:

  • Look around your home. Unless your child is starting school for the first time this year, there are bound to be "leftovers" from the last school term. Do their markers and pens still have ink? Do your older children have old books that can be passed down to younger siblings? Use what you already have before buying anything new.
  • Shop online. Use the Internet to your advantage by using promo codes and exclusive deals. An additional benefit to doing your shopping online is that your kids won't be distracted by attractive items and potential purchases in the stores.
  • Stick to your list. It's easy to go overboard and purchase colourful markers, expensive gel pens and a 132-pack of crayons. Making a list keeps you and your child focused on the necessary items. It's a proven way to help you stick to your budget.

Shopping mistakes to avoid before school starts

  • Using the wrong credit card. Don't pay more than you have to. If it is really necessary to use your credit card to make a purchase, use one that has the lowest interest rate and that offers the most reward points. You might be missing out on rebate opportunities, so check the latest promotions offered by credit card providers.
  • Taking out a payday loan. Because back-to-school expenses crop up only once a year, a lot of people forget to save for them throughout the year. The result is that you fall short of cash at a critical moment and resort to taking out a payday loan. Avoid payday loans as much as possible. No matter how cool that backpack is or no matter how much your child whines about getting a new pair of sneakers, it does not justify the risk of getting into financial trouble and debt.
  • Shopping when you're rushed. It's easy to make impulse buys when you feel rushed or distracted, which can cause you to end up paying too much. If you haven't done the shopping yet, try to order what you need online. That way, you can shop from the comfort of your own home without feeling rushed.

How to come up with a back-to-school budget

The back-to-school season is always an expensive time for parents. The cost of items such as backpacks, uniforms, school supplies and books adds up. If you're on a tight budget, it may be a good idea to follow the 50/20/30 rule. Basically, it works like this:

  • 50% of your income should go to essentials such as housing, groceries and utilities.
  • 20% of your income should be allocated to long-term expenses such as retirement accounts, university funds, emergency savings and debt payments.
  • 30% of your income can be spent on non-essential items and one-off expenses. Your back-to-school budget should come from this percentage.

It's recommended that you come up with a specific amount that you can spend on back-to-school supplies. Your kids can help in this process by deciding which items are "needs" and which ones are "wants".

Below are some other tips that can help you stick to your budget this coming school year:

  • Compromise on nonessentials. Every parent wants their child to have the coolest and the best things for school. However, your budget can only go so far. It's important to teach children the value of compromise. They can have a few cool things but that means that they have to go cheap on other items to fit the budget.
  • Use your creativity. Who said you need to buy everything brand new? Use your creativity to create new notebooks from the unused pages of old notebooks. You might even find other parents who are willing to swap used items with you.
  • Watch out for sales. It seems that every school supplies retailer charges full price when the back-to-school season starts. But the truth is, there are some retailers that have great yearly sales. Also, check the retailers here on Finder for promo codes.
  • Compare prices. You can save a lot of money if you know which stores offer the best deals. Doing your research and looking at different offers ensures you get the best price. It's particularly important to do some price comparisons for big-ticket items such as electronics.

Being prepared for school before the term starts will have a significant impact on your child's confidence, attitude and performance once the assignments start rolling in. Remember that going to school can be fun, but stress is almost unavoidable no matter which level your child is at. So follow the tips outlined in this guide to give your child a head start in class.

More ways to save money

  • Prepare affordable lunch meals. Start figuring out your kids' lunchtime meals now. This will save you a lot of stress, hassle and money in the future. Determine whether a hard lunchbox or brown bags would be more suitable for your situation. Both have pros and cons, so the choice depends on what is convenient for you and your child.
  • Buy quality writing items. There are a lot of cheap pens and pencils out there. However, these are usually of poor quality and you'll end up spending more than you have to on replacements. It's generally recommended that you get a set of high-quality pens that will last for at least half the school year.
  • Consider buying an ereader. If your child is already attending secondary school, they will be required to read classic novels and other literature. Buying an ebook reader might provide you with better value for money compared to paperback books. This is because many classic novels can be downloaded for free on ereaders.

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