MY MONEY

Four ways to save money on your back-to-school shopping

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One day I was watching my kids perform at their end-of-year school concert, and the next I am getting them ready again for school. At least, that's what it feels like.

Back-to-school shopping often comes at a time when many families are still recovering from Christmas and holiday expenses.

And this year, many people are also giving generously to bushfire related charities - plus many people and their businesses have been affected.

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Accordingly, there's even less cash to splash on school supplies than usual.

1. Reuse

The cheapest way to prepare for back-to-school is to reuse what you have already.  This means reusing their backpacks, reusing their school uniforms and reusing their lunch boxes. Tick, tick, tick on all three for me (except for needing bigger uniforms for my eldest).

Rebecca Tregurtha from the Family Footprint Project is on a mission to ensure her family lives sustainably.  Every year she prepares stationery supplies for her kids - and that includes reusing pencils, pens and even exercise books from the year before.

"They didn't even use some of their exercise books, and their pencils and pens are still perfectly fine.  It doesn't make sense to buy brand new ones," she said.  "And as a stay at home mum, every saving counts - including stationery."

2. Reduce

Tregurtha recommends buying exercise books with fewer pages than recommended on the stationery list to reduce paper waste.

This year I took a leaf out of her book and put together book packs for my two boys rather than pay for the set packs online.  I went through the list and, where possible, purchased items on sale.

3. Shop sales - or free!

I already had two bulk stationery packs I book last year, which I snapped up for a bargain after the back to school rush. I bought more during Boxing Day sales (I was sorry to have missed ALDI's back to school stationery specials).  And I even got some items for free from my Buy Nothing Project group.

4. Buy second-hand

I always buy second-hand school T-shirts and jumpers from school. I addition, I buy shorts and pants from discount stores in January.

I find certain sizes go quickly, and can be even harder to find later in the year.  While these items are relatively cheap, it worries me that there aren't fair-trade choices.

I guestimate I saved around $30 putting together the book packs, and a further $200 to $300 by reusing lunch boxes, backpacks and uniforms.

While this might not sound like a lot, if you have a large family the savings would be significant. I'm happy enough with my savings, even if it did require a bit more thought.

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Serina Bird is a proud frugalista who has amassed a million dollars through frugal living. Serina's first book, The Joyful Frugalista, is out now. She blogs at The Joyful Frugalista, and her podcast is available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. Serina is the founder of the The Joyful Business Club.
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