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Top tips for saving on school costs

Back to school can be an expensive time for parents, new uniforms, new shoes, a new school bag. All those extra costs can feel like a real drain but don't worry, we have lots of tips on how to be more careful with your money.

Parent's top tips for budgeting school costs

Tip #1: Find your local pass it on schemes

Check if the school has a school book library or uniform pass it on scheme - this can really help cut costs on things like books and blazers. School uniforms and shoes can be really expensive, so see if you can apply for a school clothing grant from your local authority.

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Tip #2: Spread the cost

Make a list of what your child needs for the first day of school and see if there's anything on it that you could buy later in the year. For example, they might need a school bag straight away but a lunch box or winter jacket you might be able to put off until October.

Keep an eye on the sales too. Buying little things here and there when they're on offer can really help. But don’t get carried away, especially with clothing. Kids grow quickly, jumpers don’t!

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Tip #3: What are the back to school essentials?

  • School uniform (see if you're entitled to a school clothing grant)
  • PE kit 
  • School shoes 
  • School bag
  • Bus/train money if applicable (see if you're entitled to a transport grant)
  • Lunch money/vouchers/budget for a packed lunch 

Your school will give you a list of anything your kid's needs as the big day gets closer. Children of different ages need different things but the list above is a good place to start.

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Tip #4: Figure out what you really need and make a list

It's always worth reviewing what you used last year to see what you really need. Once you know where the gaps are, make a shopping list before you go out. This really keeps budgets down and your child can help tick them off when you buy them.

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Tip #5: Swap supplies

But before you go out shopping, ask around if anyone has spares. If your friends have slightly older kids they might have hand me down blazers or backpacks. If you buy anything in a 2 for the price of 1 deal but only need 1, you could trade the spare with your friends. You might be able to trade them for lunchboxes or a night of free babysitting!

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Tip #6: Tag that bag!

Children aren’t always the best at hanging on to their things. Name tags on uniforms, school bags, or pencil cases can avoid both tears and extra costs later in the year.

Stamp and iron-on name tags can be pricey so why not write your child’s name directly on the label of their jumper or the inside of their bag? 

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Tip #7: Getting free school meals

All children in Scotland get free lunches in Primary 1, 2 and 3. But lots of children get free school meals after Primary 3 too. Talk to your school about any schemes they might be running. The Scottish Government makes sure your child gets free lunches at school if you're getting: 

  • Universal Credit (if your monthly earned income is not more than £610 a month)
  • Income Support
  • Income-based Job Seeker's Allowance
  • Income-based Employment and Support Allowance
  • Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999

Call the Money Talk Team on 0800 085 7145 for a free and confidential check on whether you're getting all of the support you're entitled to.

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Tip #8: Getting free meals for toddlers

Lots of little ones also get free meals at their Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) provider before they’re old enough to go to school. They can get lunch for free if you’re claiming any of the following:

  • Universal Credit (if your monthly earned income is not more than £610 a month)
  • Income Support 
  • Income-based Job Seeker's Allowance
  • Income-based Employment and Support Allowance
  • Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Severe Disablement Allowance
  • Pension Credit

Your child can also get a free lunch if at any point after they turned 2 they've been:

  • Looked after by a local or state authority
  • Had a Kinship Care Order
  • Had a Guardianship Order

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Tip #9: Get help with school transport costs

Lots of local authorities provide free school transport. You can get this for your child if:

  • Their school isn't within walking distance - walking distance is over 2 miles from home to school if your child is under 8 or over 3 miles if your child is over 8
  • Your child has additional support needs - like a disability
  • Your child has a health issue which stops them walking to school
  • Your child can't attend school in their catchment area (for example, if the local school is full)
  • Your family has a low income
  • There's no safe route for your child to walk or cycle to school

Contact your local authority or freephone the Money Talk Team on 0800 085 7145 to find out if you're missing out on support you're entitled to. 

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Make sure you're getting all of the help you're entitled to

The Money Talk Team are a great resource for helping parents make their money go further and making sure that you’re not missing out on support you’re entitled to. They'll be able to help you with anything from school uniform grants to school lunch vouchers.