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Back to school savings ideas on a single parent budget!

SingleMum.com.au | Updated 21 January, 2017



Back to school - Stock Photo

how DO you prepare your kids for the new school year...

on a shoe-string budget?!

Back-to-school time is fast-approaching, and we're only just getting over the financial blow of Christmas - not to mention school holidays are still in full-swing! So how DO you outfit and stock up your kids for the new school year on a single parent shoe-string budget?

To get you headed in the right direction, we've put together a list of money-saving ideas and tips that might just help to ease at least some of the financial pain...

#1 Money Saving Tip - plan ahead! Put away a little bit of money each week for next year to create your own Schoolkids Bonus now that this payment has been removal by the government (after 2016's final payments)
Back to school books and pen - source: Bigstock image
Stationery can be cheap - if you shop at the right places!

Cheap-As-Chips Stationery

As all savvy single parents should, check out the discount department stores first. Give the newsagents and fashionable colour-code stationery stores a big miss - and whatever you do, don't take the kids with you if you can possibly avoid it. They'll almost certainly talk you into the expensive brands!

Kmart, Big W & some major supermarkets such as Coles are selling basic school supplies very cheaply right now - but that doesn't mean that they won't revert back to normal prices soon after the kids go back to school, so if you have your shopping list ready, the time to shop is now.

For some great money-saving ideas on recycling your current school-supplies read our Money-saving back-to-school tips for busy mums!

Super-Saver-Tip! - Don't check the normal stationery areas in the store where most items are still expensive. Look for seasonal display aisles (usually where the Christmas products were), aisle-ends and large feature display bins

Uniforms - shop around!

When outfitting your child for school, probably the best place to start is your child's school - almost every public school has a uniform pool or shop where parents can buy school uniforms cheaply or second hand. Low-income families are often simply given uniforms for their children.If you are in financial difficulty, go to the school office, (ask for a private meeting with the principal if you are embarrassed) and ask!

Cheap uniform basics such as track suits, polo shirts, school shirts, shorts, socks and even common-design school dresses are inexpensive at Aldi, Kmart, Big W, Target, Best & Less, Dimmeys & Lowes. Pay attention to your Junk Mail in the letterbox! Compare the latest back-to-school catalogues for the cheapest prices.

Back to school uniforms - source: Bigstock image
Cheap, or even free, uniforms can sometimes be
obtained from your school uniform pool!

Many schools also now have dedicated parent Facebook Groups for the buy - sell - swap of school uniforms. This is often where parents sell outgrown uniforms. This can be particularly good for expensive woollen jumpers, skirts, etc.. If you can't search one up, phone up your school office - they usually have the address, or name of administrator to add you to the group.

Super-Saver-Tip! - If one component of a uniform is too expensive - for example a blue jacket with a school shield printed on the pocket - ask the school if they will allow children to wear a plain version. If the answer is yes, you can then buy a cheaper jacket of the same colour from a discount store

School Shoes price comparison

Before buying school shoes, check your school's school shoe policy. Yes, these exist! Some schools will not accept Mary Jane styles (open at the top with a single strap) due to their insurance policies. They may require closed, laced leather shoes. Others will accept black canvas or running shoes ($7 from Kmart). Do your homework so that you don't buy the wrong shoes altogether.

Good school shoes are great, but it's the fit that is the most crucial part. Get that right, and you can decide your budget from there. Get your child's foot measured properly at a Department store such as Myer or David Jones, or a good shoe store - you don't have to buy the shoes there of course!

Cheapest school shoes

If last year's shoes no longer fit (always check first - just because it's a new school year, this doesn't necessarily mean that you have to buy new shoes!), then basic school shoes start can start as cheaply as $6.50 from Big W, $15 from Target, $8.50 from Kmart (Kmart also have the cheapest entry-level leather-upper school shoes at $15) or $7 from Aldi (you have to be quick with Aldi - watch the pre-catalogues online).

Better quality, still cheap school shoes

Reasonable quality leather shoes are $35 a pair at Target and $29.99 at Big W.

When deciding how much you're going to spend on school shoes, keep in mind that kids can grow out of their school shoes in less than six months. Therefore, it may be wise not to go too overboard on the price. If you do feel that you must get the best, then consider checking out your local shoe warehouse discount centre or brands seconds stores first. They may just happen to stock last year's top-brand school shoes at a considerable saving, and even your fussy teenager probably won't be able to spot the style difference!

Consider buying school shoes at the last minute - this is usually when they go on sale. That said, you risk not being able to get the right size. Be savvy, and keep an eye on your local department store, and their stock numbers. If they have a lot in stock, it's probably worth the risk to wait for their sales!

Hand-me-downs are perfectly fine

When they do grow out of their school shoes, chances are there is still plenty of wear left for any younger children following their siblings into school... just paint on a bit of shoe-black and voila - smart, shiny shoes! The same applies for uniforms - wash and store them as useful hand-me-downs for your younger children - not the school uniform pool - at least not until your family has finished with them. It's fashionable to recycle, after all!

Public transport - check your entitlements

Public transport concessions vary from state to state - check with your school who should have all the details and forms you need to apply or make a claim - your kids may be entitled to a free ride, or you may even be entitled to petrol reimbursement at the end of the year if no public transport is available - don't miss out! Distance Education kids can often claim their trips to and from any Mini-Schools too.

Voluntary School Contributions - don't feel you have to pay it if you can't afford it!


Education costs - source: Bigstock image
Don't pay Voluntary school fees if you don't have to!

Most public schools make some kind of "voluntary contribution" request, sometimes it sounds like it is compulsory when it isn't! Google your state government school policy on this - chances are, you don't have to pay a cent.

For example, from the NSW Government Schools Website...

"Both primary and secondary schools can request contributions to enhance the school's educational and sporting programs. These school contributions are voluntary and payment is a matter for decision by parents. They help provide additional educational resources for the benefit of students. Principals will ensure that no student or family suffers any discrimination or embarrassment over Voluntary School Contributions"

So in other words, if you're financially stretched already don't deprive your family of much-needed money just because you feel you're obliged to pay the Voluntary School Contributions - you're not - and only the school staff will know if you haven't.

Further Financial Assistance

Consider contacting a charity. Asking for help is nothing to be ashamed of - that's what charities are there for - to assist low-income families such as single parents that may well be struggling, particularly at this time of the year. Don't feel that you are alone in this situation either - there are many families - both single parent and low-income two-parent families - doing it tough right now.

The Smith Family, Salvation Army, St Vincent de Paul Society and Red Cross all have current programs designed for back-to-school assistance. To find out more information, you can go to the SingleMum.com.au Charities School Support information section here

.

Government Funding and Schemes

Government funding and scholarships - source: Bigstock image
Check your State link for further funding schemes

In some states you may get a little, in others a lot - there's seemingly no rhyme or reason to Australia's State Government education allowances, but it's certainly worth checking to see what your family is entitled to. Keep in mind that some schemes, such as the Victorian Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) and Northern Territory Spectacles Scheme have been removed completely, with no forseeable replacements.

NSW Active Kids $100 sports vouchers

NSW have just launched the Active Kids $100 sports vouchers which help with after-school sports. Every child (4.5 - 18 years' old) enrolled in school from Kindergarten to Year 12 are eligible for an Active Kids Voucher. This includes those who are home-schooled or enrolled in secondary school education at TAFE NSW. It will not be means tested and one voucher will be available for every child in the family annually over the next four years. There will be no limits on the number of applications per family, as long as every child is enrolled in school. You can find out more at the official NSW government website here.

For all State Government school schemes and allowances, check the SingleMum.com.au State Government School allowances page here

As already mentioned, the Federal (National) Government Schoolkids Bonus has now finished and is no longer paid out.

For many National Government school schemes and allowances, check the SingleMum.com.au National Government School schemes page here

For more money saving ideas, take a look around the Single Mother Money Saving Tips Forum or maybe post your own savvy single parent money tips - and please do "Like" or "Share" this article if you found it to be useful!

Do you have any great back-to-school savings ideas? Comment below!


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What does it mean to be a single mum?Of course, the

kids

are the most important thing in a single mum's life. Kids are the focus and always have been. But along with the children, there are other matters that can confuse a single mum's life.

Centrelink

plays a big part of a single mother's life, mainly because this is where a large percentage of single mums get their finances from. Centrelink are the source from where the

single mother pension

, or as it is otherwise known, the single parent payment comes from. The single mother pension is a subsistence amount, but just the same, it is money to live on, and so it is important, no matter if it is called single parent payment, single mother pension or whatever Centrelink welfare classes it at the time

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divorce

or defacto relationship only to find that their troubles have just begun, and find that their first step leads them towards Family Law - it's time to engage a lawyer.
There are more than just Centrelink finance problems to worry about, as mentioned before, but also

child custody

issues. Child custody is something that hits right at the heart of

single mums

. If a single mother's ex husband or ex partner has been a domestic violence perpetrator, the mum may be greatly worried about child custody. They worry that their kids won't be safe with their spouse, who has already proven to be abusive because they caused

domestic violence

, which resulted in a divorce or separation.

Even so,

Family Court

will often still order a form of child custody named

Shared Parenting

. Shared Parenting is a form of child custody division of time or parental responsibility between the parents. Mother's often look for a good divorce lawyer to try to avoid share parenting with an abusive ex-spouse after divorce, however in many cases Shared Parenting is still the outcome after the divorce, no matter how good the divorce lawyers have been. They will often settle for visitation at a contact centre or access centre where fathers or mothers are supervised during child custody access.

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