5 Things to Do Before School Starts to Save!

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Ensure the school year gets underway on track and on budget with our handy guide

So you’ve survived the mayhem of Christmas, and partied your way into the New Year. Before you know it, January will have flown by and it’ll be time for the kids to go back to school. Avoid any last minute panic – such as dragging the school bag out of the cupboard the day school goes back only to find it still contains last year’s mouldy lunch (we’ve all been there!).

Here’s our top tips to get the 2016 school year off to a smooth start!

  1. Set rules for technology use

Argh…kids and technology! So undeniably innovative, helpful and invaluable for their education – and yet the cause of so much stress and hassle for many families!

  • Take the time now to negotiate some ground rules around technology use with your kids. Address issues like what devices and apps they’re allowed access to, where they can use them, and when.
  • Decide what works best for your family, but its recommended kids aren’t allowed computers and devices in their bedrooms.
  • Set a cut off time for technology access each evening, and create an overnight charging station in a common area in your home, such as the kitchen.
  • Being on Facebook while trying to do homework is not a good strategy! Is your child receiving or making texts or calls late at night? Sleep deprivation is a big problem for many kids, and midnight texts from friends will only make this worse. By restricting technology use to common areas of the home, you’ll be able to keep an eye on what your kids are viewing and doing, and when.
  • If your child is just reaching high school age, technology use and online access may be relatively new territory. It can be hard to know how to find the best device and deal to ensure both your child and your cash are protected!
  • When it comes to choosing a mobile plan for your child, do your research carefully. Consider aspects such as whether to get a prepaid plan or post-paid contract, what excess data charges you might face, and which providers have the best handset, inclusions and costs. There’s some handy online guides like this one that can help you decide.
  • Once you’ve decided on your device and plan and negotiated the ground rules, put them into play a week or so before school goes back, so everyone has time to get used to (and accept!) them.
  1. Plan school transport routes and your family’s weekly routine

If your child is transitioning to high school or changing schools, they’ll be facing a new route to and from school. This might also be their first year catching public transport to and from school, and it’s important they have the skills and confidence to get their way to and from school safely.

  • Ensure your kids know their bus, train, tram or ferry routes and have their transport pass and fares sorted.
  • In some areas there’s transport changes in 2016, such as these changes to school bus route numbering in Sydney.
  • Check your local transport website for the most up to date timetable information, and ensure you and your child are familiar with it.
  • You could even try a test run during the holidays, to ensure your child is comfortable and confident with their route.
  • Ensure your child understands how to behave on public transport – they don’t want to get themselves and their school into trouble! Check online for your area’s transport Student Code of Conduct and have your child familiarise themselves with what’s expected of them on public transport.

The New Year also often brings with it a change in the weekly routine. It’s a good idea to create a planner that outlines who is headed where each day before and after school, how they’re getting there and when.

  • Include all family members and their extra-curricular activities like sports, music, dance, tutoring, and after school casual work shifts for older kids.
  • You might like to try printing a weekly planner to pop on the fridge, or if everyone in your family has a phone and is online, you could try linking everyone through a family organiser app like Google Calendar, Hub or Cozi.
  1. Budget for school expenses for the year ahead

Get your budget in order and know what you’re going to be asked to cough up cash for, and when!

  • Most schools should supply a listing of fees for the year, including the estimated cost of school camps, excursions, sport and optional activities like band and drama.
  • Check your school’s website for information on these fees and charges, and work out your estimated total expenditure for the year.
  • Try to determine when each amount is going to be due so that you can start planning to have the cash ready for when you’re going to need it.
  • Need help getting together the cash to meet your school expenses? See the friendly staff at your local City Finance branch for a chat and some helpful advice.
  1. Build up kids’ sleep reserves

It’s easy to slip into the habit of extra late nights during the holidays, and this can mean tired and cranky kids – not an ideal way to kick off the new school year!

  • Teenagers need 9 to 10 hours sleep a night – how many hours are your kids getting? Remember, they can’t sleep in until 10 or 11am once school starts!
  • In the week before school resumes, start to enforce proper bedtimes (and wake up times, if you can!) so that your child builds their sleep reserves, resets their body clock if necessary, and starts the new school year feel rested and raring to go.
  1. Check uniforms, stationery and textbook requirements – and label everything!

Drag those school bags and uniforms out of the cupboard they were thrown into when school finished back in December!

  • If you haven’t already, give everything a wash. Check uniform supplies and sizes, and find a quiet evening in front of the TV to get any uniform ironing done – so that you’re not rushing around in a panic doing this on the morning school starts!
  • Keep an eye out for a good sale on school shoes. Beat the queues that inevitably occur in the last few days of the holidays, and buy your child’s new school shoes now.
  • If your child’s school has issued a list of stationery and textbook requirements, source these asap (before all the good clear book covering and glue sticks have sold out at the supermarket – I’m sure we’ve all been there!).
  • Label everything! Don’t throw your cash down the drain – we all know how careless and forgetful kids can be with their belongings at times. Put their name in and on everything – so that if it gets lost, it will hopefully make its way back to its owner, sparing you the cost of a new one!

Still feel like you’re forgetting something? Check out this handy back to school guide and print this handy back to school checklist to pop on the fridge and check off as the start of school approaches.