Lonathemba Mathonsi with her mother Phumzile Mathonsi of Efolweni were excited to shop for school uniforms. Picture: Zanele Zulu/ African News Agency (ANA)

The struggle is real as parents prepare for the new school year. From stationary to uniforms, these are things that some of us don't always budget for, but they need to be done.

And it doesn't help that January is literally the longest month of the year. But if you think smart and are savvy with your planning, you could save cash and time with these easy tips.

Do your homework

While it might seem obvious, in order to know if you’re getting a good deal on school stationary, you need to know how much the items sell for. Make sure you know the pros and cons of every item, so the buying process is breezy.

Make a plan

When you know exactly what you need and where to find it, get a budget going. It’s without a doubt the most important part because we know the last thing you want to do is blow your grocery money on pens and pencils. 

However, you’ll often find the best school stationary deals after the back‐to‐school rush, so it’s not the end of the world if you miss something during the shopping rush. It is also recommended that you buy before the rush, as this is usually cheaper.

Rent your school supplies

Thanks to online retailer Teljoy, you’re able to buy products on a rent‐to‐own model. This essentially means a consumer with a clear credit record and permanent employment can buy a product on a month‐to‐month contract. Laptops, TVs, sound systems, cellphones, cameras, you name it.

Consider cheapies

While it might not be your first choice when it comes to shopping, stores within the China Town complex are unexpectedly helpful when it comes to back to school shopping. Calculators, tape dispensers, staplers, glue… you’ll be surprised just how much is on offer. Start looking for stationery and other products in the summer months, because they sell fast.

Look to money-saving apps

Another helpful tip is to use money saver apps. They aid the process of tracking your expenses and allow you to comprehensively understand how to better afford school supplies. Examples of good apps to use include: My financial life, My Money and Moneysmart.

Shop during off-season

Some of the best deals for back‐to‐school shopping can be found in the school off season. This is especially relevant for clothes, as you’ll find it isn’t easy to purchase a winter coat in the middle of summer, but retail experts say the savings will all be worth it. Always be on the lookout for things that’ll come in handy for the coming year/s.