As Term 1 approaches, it’s time to start thinking about your kids’ back to school supplies.

Following several weeks of kids’ entertainment, the thought of spending more makes me sweat like it’s over 44. If you feel the same, chill out! With my 6 tips to manage the cost of your back to school supplies, you can send your kids to school with all the gear they need without breaking the bank.

1. Start at home

Before hitting the shops, consolidate your existing supplies. Do your children really need new stationery? I find pencils all over the house and simply invest in new sharpeners and make a game of it – Who Can Make The Longest Pencil Shaving is popular with the younger ones (for the older ones, bribery is always a winner). Give school bags and pencil cases a good scrub or throw them through the washing machine for a new lease on life. The idea of new stuff on the first day of school is fun, but it’s often not necessary, and provides a good lesson for kids in recycling and looking after their stuff.

2. Go it alone

I’m yet to meet a parent who doesn’t obliterate the budget when shopping with children, so this is a no-brainer. Avoid desperate pleas for scented highlighters and overpriced branded pencil cases by leaving the kids at home. Leave them home with their dad, or leave them with a friend and take a back to school shopping list for her kids too. You’ll save your money and your sanity.

3. Buy in bulk

If you have the storage space, buy in bulk. The more notebooks and stationery you purchase, the better your economy of scale. If you’re super organised, combine forces with other parents and shop together.

4. Invest in quality

As tempting as it is to snap up the 99c home brand textas in the supermarket aisle bins, don’t be sucked in. Have you ever used those things? You get what you pay for. Invest in good quality stationery brands that go the distance, and spend the time naming each item (yes, it’s tedious, but you’ll appreciate the effort). Alternatively, get your kids to decorate their stationary with stickers so they can keep tabs on their stuff.

5. Look for good deals on shoes and runners

Do your kids grow a shoe size over the Christmas holidays? Mine certainly do – although I’m sure this also has something to do with the fact that they eat me out of house and home. The Great January Shoe And Runner Shop doesn’t need to bust the budget. If your kids actually need new treads (don’t fall into the trap of buying new shoes just because it’s a new year), many shoe stores offer a two for one deal, or a buy one and get the second or third pair free. Otherwise get out the shoe polish and throw their runners through the washing machine!

6. Create an incentive for kids to look after their stuff

At the beginning of last year, my son’s teacher offered a Mars Bar to the children still in possession of their scissors on the last day of the school. The only kid I know who doesn’t like chocolate (certainly not hereditary), William clung to that challenge like a child possessed. Needless to say, that’s one set of scissors I can strike off the back to school list for 2014.

This may not work for the younger children, but get creative with older kids or have them replace lost items from their own bank account. I guarantee, with that approach, their resourcefulness will surprise you!

So with a little forward planning and creative inspiration, your kids can hit their first day back with a bag full of school supplies – without emptying your wallet!


Since her youngest started school last year, Olivia Zan has been a Writer for Melbourne Warehouse Sales. Managing the daily Parental Juggling Act for an energetic blended family of five under 12, she maintains her sanity (and her stepdaughter’s affections) with a healthy obsession for bargain shopping. Say hello @olivia_zan or find out more at

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