School year budget planner

Tips for keeping the family finances on an even keel as school term begins. Even though most of us don’t have hefty private school bills, there are still costs to plan for.

Most uniforms only require a specific school sweat top, jumper or blazer to go over other clothes that can be bought cheaply from high street stores, but don’t leave it too late or you’ll find the cheap grey trousers in your child’s size have sold out.

All schools organise secondhand sales at least once a year – go along, growth spurts mean some items will be hardly worn.

Do you need to drive or get a bus to school? Daily trips for 38 weeks a year will affect your fuel budget so add a little extra each month to your budget rather than letting it become a problem.

School lunches
Ask if your school accepts lunch payments by the week or at least by each half term to spread this cost out.
For packed lunches, avoid expensive pre-packed options (like mini fruit portions and juice cartons). Buy reusable tubs and drink bottles and make your own lunch snacks.

Tuition for extra home support or specific pre-secondary preparation can cost at least £20 per session, so ask around and see if other parents can recommend a good local tutor to get your money’s worth.

Books and equipment
Ask the school if parents are expected to provide books or equipment at any time in the coming school year (more common at secondary school). Given extra notice, you could borrow what’s needed from an older friend or cousin.

School trips
A school can’t demand money for trips, these are voluntary contributions. Many PTAs reserve money from fundraising events to subsidise trips.

State benefits
If your family claims benefits tell your child’s school as it can mean extra support for school lunches, trips and uniform etc. It does not affect your privacy.

Savvy tip
Local council educational music departments often run music classes within schools that are cheaper than private lessons. Visit to find your council and what they offer.

Pass it on – help with travel costs
There are subsidies available for families who live far from school or if a child has a disability or special educational need. Find out if you qualify at