'The 4 money saving hacks I always use when doing the back to school shopping.'

Hoooooo boy. In case you’re wondering, that sound is me checking my bank balance in January. Oh hi there negative balance, maxed out credit cards (and maxed out literally every line of credit available).

Everyone else is making very noble and grand resolutions for the year ahead, but mine is simply to not be broke next January. I mean, it rolls around every year, but I’m never prepared either emotionally or financially for it. I blame being a millennial.

To add insult to serious financial injury, January tends to bring some pretty hefty expenses with it when you have kids. Between book lists, shoes, uniforms, lunch boxes, bags, and outside of school activity fees, I know I’m quaking in my shoes at having everything ready by the time school goes back in a few weeks.

Out of necessity, I’ve been forced to think of any way possible to save money on the mountain of back to school costs, and figured there are plenty of other parents who could probably benefit.

Here are the ways I’ve saved money on hack to school costs:

There are two types of mums when it comes to back to school shopping. Which one are you?

Video by MMC

1. Booklists.

How on earth does a grade two book list amount to more than $200, without even having anything electronic in there? And this is a public school! Between three kids (and none of them even in high school where you might expect the expense) my book list costs amount to almost $500.


While I’m certainly grateful to have them all at school, and thus no-longer paying day care or kindy fees, this is a lot of money to come up with right off the bat of the New Year.

It pays to take a good look at the items listed, and work out what’s really needed. At our school, the lists are ordered online and delivered directly to the classroom where the resources are pooled. Taking a look at just my grade two list, they call for 40 grey-lead pencils and 10 (!) erasers.

Generally, these crazy amounts are to make up for cases where families may not have ordered for their child which is very noble and I always try to do this to help out. Nut work out for yourself whether you can afford to subsidise the rest of the class. This year, I cannot (and 10 erasers per student, whether subsidising or not is… ridiculous).

If ordering online, you can edit the number of each item you’re ordering, and can save a reasonable amount by reducing.
As well as pencils and erasers, I’ll also be cutting back on the number of scrapbooks I order, as they always bring home multiple unused books at the end of the year. Should they run out during the year, you can always purchase more.

2. Uniforms.

Ah, uniforms. They’re the great equaliser (or individuality eraser, depending on your point of view). Personally, I like that I don’t really need to think about what my kids will be wearing, and there can be no arguments over clothes in the morning. But, they can be pretty expensive.

It pays to sift through the second-hand racks at the school uniform shop, where you can pick up some bargains in good condition. If there are cheap second-hand hats, grab them, because it’s guaranteed there will be at least six lost hats in term one alone.


Also, check out budget-friendly shops for their school uniform section. While you’ll need to buy logo shirts from the school, you can pick up plain coloured shorts, pants, skorts, and hats for as little as $4.

We actually find the cheap shorts much lighter than the uniform shop ones, which is important in Queensland. As a bonus, they dry quickly after that late night wash after realising you have no clean uniforms!


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New dressing gowns! “Sit close to each other and look cute or I’ll take ‘em back to the shop!”

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3. Lunchboxes.

Don’t buy the fancy and expensive ones. They look very nice on the super-mum Instagram pages, but honestly, your kid will almost definitely lose it, and the last thing you want to do is waste your time rifling through smelly lost and found boxes every afternoon.


Usually you can get lunchboxes and accessories on sale in the supermarkets at this time of year. I recommend buying extra containers because they will also get lost.

The same goes for drink bottles. They all leak, break, or get lost, so don’t spend a fortune on them.

4. Shoes.

Decent shoes are really important given your child spends their whole day running around and playing in them. You want a good fit, and something durable and comfortable, but it comes at a pretty huge cost (I usually spend close to $400 to get my three one decent pair each).

Find a shoe store that A. has a sale on – they usually do back-to-school specials and B. offers loyalty rewards. Often once you’ve spent a certain amount you’ll get a voucher for money off your next purchase. If you’re buying for multiple kids, do them in separate transactions so you can take advantage of said discount if applicable.

Also, while I wouldn’t advise getting carried away with instant credit options (they can pile up fast), many stores now have ZipPay and AfterPay, so you can pay it off over time and your kids will still be kitted out for the first day back at school.

There’s no doubt it’s a hectic and expensive time of year, and if you’re in the midst of the mad back-to-school shopping dash, I see you. Keep in mind the relief and quiet you’ll feel in a few weeks when it’s back to routine.

What are your money saving tips for the back to school season? Tell us in the comments section below.