Beat the back-to-school costs

A girl and boy in their school uniforms. See PA Feature FINANCE School. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FINANCE School.
A girl and boy in their school uniforms. See PA Feature FINANCE School. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FINANCE School.

The sun may be shining but there’s not much of a warm glow around parents’ finances at this time of year.

Not only are we still trying to hammer out the dents in our budget made by entertaining the kids over holidays, but the cost of sending them back to school is also coming up fast.

As well as the more obvious purchases, such as school uniforms, stationary and packed lunches, there are “hidden” costs to consider too, including gifts for teachers and parking.

New research from John Lewis suggests parents will spend nearly £1,000 on food and drink, around £590 on after school clubs and around £540 on transporting their offspring, every school year.

Another £120 a year goes on outfits for proms and parties, as well as £150 on gifts and donations, while sports kits and uniforms often total £290.

Year 7 - the transitional first year of secondary school - is the most expensive, costing parents an average of £6,800.

Johnathan Marsh, buying director at John Lewis, says: “On average, children are bought their first laptop and mobile when they’re 11, which goes some way to explaining why Year 7 is the most expensive.”

Meanwhile, Year 4 was found to be the priciest primary school year, typically setting parents back £6,400.

Interestingly, the research found boys to be more expensive than girls. The cost for parents of sending a boy to school was £5,500 a year on average, compared to £3,900 for girls.

Rob Hennessy, senior buyer small electricals at John Lewis, has tips for easing the financial strain:

:: Buy early to give you more choice and help avoid disappointment. Many parents put off buying uniforms as they fear their child’s height may shoot up over the summer, but you can get advice from store staff on going up a size.

:: Check with the school before buying new technology to find out which devices are actually allowed in the classroom.

:: Get protected. It pays to be vigilant and protect technology with the most up-to-date anti-virus software.

:: Label everything to help your child keep track of their belongings and avoid having to go out and buy the same thing again. As well as sewing in name labels to clothing, bags and pencil cases, you can also get tags for electrical products.

:: Bulk buy uniform - it could save you money on the initial purchase, and means you’ll use the washing machine less often.

:: Pay online. Many schools provide a service that allows parents to pay for their child’s school excursions, visits and school meals online, via new payment systems. No more sending the kids to school with cash in hand...