Public schools in South Africa resume on January 17.

For parents,  it’s back‐to‐school time again and there are many purchases still to be made in January, including school uniforms, stationery, textbooks, and so much more.

Hopefully you put some money aside last year, and didn’t overspend over the festive season, so back‐to‐school purchases won’t have too much of a negative impact on your finances for the year ahead.

Maybe you hid some sneaky stationery camouflaged as presents under the Christmas tree. Sadly, life isn’t always that simple ‐ and many of us fail to plan.

Here are some tips to keep you sane ahead of the 2018 school year, and hopefully help you to lighten the weight of your budget a bit.

Do your homework

Whether you’re shopping for stationery, backpacks, or whatever else, make sure you shop around for the best possible price. Ensuring your children are fully kitted out for school is a costly business. Price comparison sites such as PriceCheck are useful for getting perspective on a range of available products, and giving an overview of how much the price of an item differs in multiple stores. Getting the best possible deal enables you to save some money for other necessities. You can also buy the items directly off some websites.

Hunt for hand-me-downs

You can’t buy everything second‐hand (a used notebook wouldn’t be very useful, after all), but you can find good deals on text books and even school uniforms. Kids grow so fast, so a second-hand jersey or blazer, for example, can still have a lot of life left in it. And if you have children a few years apart in age, be sure to hold on to anything that can be re‐used.

Get organised

So much happens in any school year, it’s hard to keep track of the whole family’s comings and goings. Consider keeping an online calendar, like Google Calendar for example, that you can easily update as the year goes on. Alternatively, buy a hard copy of a calendar and keep it in an area in the house (with a pen) where everyone can see it and remember to update it.

Be sure to add birthdays of friends and relatives, important events, exams and tests, upcoming family holidays, school plays, sports days, and public holidays.

Pay as you go

Having to pay for so many things, all at the same time, can be daunting. School uniforms, pencils, notebooks, school readers, and more, are all needed from the start of the year – and there’s no way to avoid that cost.

However, it’s possible to defer some of the cost of more expensive items like gadgets and electronics. Local company Teljoy offers rent‐to‐own on new electronics and appliances with month-to-month agreements. At the end of a pre-determined period, you can take ownership of the product.

This could be useful if you need a family laptop or tablet for research for school projects (and your online calendar to keep the whole family’s schedule on track), a washing machine to ensure school uniforms and sports gear are always good to go, or if you’d like to invest in a blender to make healthy smoothies for the whole family to start the day right.

Through proper planning and following some helpful tips, 2018 could be the start of your lifelong savings’ journey.