Back to School – Kath Curran
I have a tidy pile of high school uniforms ready for the school year to begin. But back-to-school routines are no longer a part of our household, so those uniforms will be shared out; well, probably not the socks.
Uniforms are a considerable cost for a family budget and the list gets long for things to supply. Stationery, lunches, activities, camps, bus passes, shoes and school donations are major items to be threaded back into the budget after a long summer break. Some schools and classes may also require the students to provide their own technology devices or the expectation they have access to laptops and the internet at home.
There are children who will miss out on a stable school experience, because, for some families, the costs of equipping their children for the day and sending them off with tummies full from breakfast and a packed lunchbox (with enough food), is just too hard to do five days a week. There will be young women who will not go to school while they are menstruating because families cannot afford enough feminine hygiene products at times.
Some ideas to get through:
- Check out the Work and Income site for eligibility for assistance for school uniforms and stationery for low income families. You don’t have to be on a benefit to qualify and it is considered recoverable so you do have to pay the grant back
- Talk with the Principal at the school about your financial situation that is preventing your child participating in any school activity such as camp
- Note how much you spend over the first few school months and set a plan for that amount next year. Estimates are that an average of over $38,000 will be spent by families on a child’s ‘free’ education over their 13 years in school. It is no wonder it seems to be more expensive than expected. And it is good to know where the goal posts are to avoid surprises
- It’s a fallacy to assume that people with low incomes do not know how to manage money. In fact the opposite is truer – that people on limited budgets are goldmines for ideas to make a dollar stretch. Networking to share tips on where to find bargains or swaps on uniforms, sports gear and stationery make good sense and build connections. I used to get frustrated by how much gear seemed to get lost or misplaced along the way, so extra hand-me-downs were always appreciated
- If the added strain of this time of the year is putting the family into debt or getting you stressed, then do come and see a Financial Coach at Napier Family Centre. It’s free!