It doesn't seem so long ago that you were wrapping Christmas presents and packing up the car for the annual family holiday. Now the kids are starting to get used to the early morning starts and you're back into the routine of packing lunches.
The words 'back-to-school' spark a variety of feelings, but one thing's for sure: the financial implications can put a strain on your bank balance, especially as they come hard on the heels of those December and January bills.
The secret to keeping a step ahead of school costs and making sure your children make the most of the educational opportunities on offer is to have a plan.
A plan will put you in control and help you avoid dumb debt in 2013.
Look back at last year
Were there any unexpected costs that tripped up your budget? Perhaps one of your children forgot to tell you about a school trip, or decided they wanted to start piano lessons, which you hadn't anticipated. Look back at previous years and see how much you spent on things like books and stationery, as well as additional expenses that may have cropped up during the year. This will give you an idea of how much you will need.
Make a plan
If you haven't already, now is the time to make a money plan that outlines all the costs you expect to incur throughout the year. Remember to review it regularly and make changes where necessary. A plan will keep you in control of where your money is going and help keep your finances on track.
Not everything needed to be paid at the beginning of Term One, so work out what costs are essential and what costs can be delayed for another term or spread out across the year.
Save a contingency fund
Inevitably something will come up during the year that you can't predict, like a lost pair of shoes. If you save a little bit of money regularly into a contingency fund, this will help you manage any unforeseen costs without setting you back financially.
Talk to the school
Most schools that have a uniform will have a second-hand shop where you can purchase pieces of the uniform throughout the year, whether it is a blazer or sports shorts.
Schools may also allow you to set up automatic payments for school donations so you can pay them off without including interest.
Know what you need
A new year, of course, doesn't always mean everything needs to be new. List everything your child will need throughout the year, taking into account what will last another term or two.
Finally, don't forget to note how much it cost to prepare the kids to go back to school this year, so you've got a good idea how much you will need in 2014 and can plan accordingly.
Term One may have started, but there are plenty of things you can do to keep expenses in check to guarantee a happy school year - not only for your children but for your family's bank balance too.
David Kneebone is the spokesman for Sorted.
- © Fairfax NZ News