Posted August 25, 2012 by Jen in Finance

All Aboard the Yellow School Bus!

back to school
back to school

It’s that time of year again: back to school! Although not all children are thrilled to see the end of  summer, most parents are happy to see their children return to a structured learning environment that is less expensive than daycare or camp. However, school is certainly not free given the supplies, clothing, multiple pairs of shoes and fees you must pay for throughout the year. If you are dreading the cost of school, here are a few tips to help ease the burden.



First off, take the time to go through your child’s wardrobe and clearly identify what can be worn again this year versus what needs to be replaced. The excitement of a new school year can sometimes lure parents into buying everything new. The reality is that replacing your child’s entire wardrobe will not increase his or her scholastic performance, but instead will teach your child that all is disposable and will wreak havoc on your budget.

Having said this, there are certainly pieces of clothing that need replacing and none should feel guilty about arming their child with clothes that fit properly and remain in good condition. These few new articles can help boost your child’s confidence and therefore improve his or her social interactions.

When shopping for new clothes, be mindful that stores expect parents to shop in August so costs are high. If you can afford to wait a bit longer, prices should decrease once the massive wave of back-to-school shoppers has subsided. Accept hand-me-downs from older cousins and recognize that second-hand clothes are as good as new for your child’s wardrobe needs. If you must buy new, choose shoes and clothes that are slightly too big to allow for the unavoidable growth spurt in the next few months.


As with the clothing, begin by taking stock of what is leftover from last year. Are there any binders, pencils, or erasers that were not used the previous academic year? How about that school bag? As was the case with clothes, your child does not need a new bag every September. Maybe the old bag can handle one more year.

Wait for the teacher’s instructions on exactly what is needed. Too often we are determined to ensure that our child is fully stocked with anything he may or may not need that we end up buying enough supplies to last independent business owner. The reality is that often supplies bought on impulse do not get used or need to be replaced by specific classroom requirements. If the teacher decides that all students should have a 1 inch binder, a pencil, a pen and an eraser, you just wasted your money on those 2 inch binders, gel pens and liquid paper pens. Every teacher has different preferences and requirements so best to save your effort and wait until given orders.


Ah, the dreaded school lunches! Although they take only 10 minutes or so to prepare each night, they are the bane of a parent’s existence. What should you pack? What allergies must you consider? What is healthy but will also be eaten? No matter what you choose to pack in your child’s lunch, be sure to clarify that any food that is not eaten at school should be returned instead of thrown out. Some children will trash an uneaten apple because they fear the repercussion of returning food home. Reassure your child that they will not be reprimanded for uneaten food and, if anything, it will help you learn their preferences as well as adjust to the size of their appetite. If your child always tends to return the healthy snacks, stop packing the treats and (s)he will have no choice but to eat the apple instead of the bag of chips.

Here are a few quick and easy lunch ideas:

  1. Flat burger bun with cream cheese and slice of turkey; yogurt; apple; crackers;V8/water
  2. Hummus, carrots & flat bread; cheese cubes; pear; apple sauce, juice/water
  3. Leftover pasta; fruit jerkey; banana; yogurt drink; water; nut-free granola bar
These are simply a few of my tricks for saving on back-to-school. What are yours?