BACK to school is always an expensive time of year for parents.
From free school meals to book swaps, Tara Evans and Lynsey Barber from The Sun’s Consumer team share their best money saving tips.
Free school meals
Families spend an average of £437 per child on lunches over the course of a school year – but if you qualify for free meals that could be a massive saving.
Kids in the first three years of primary school automatically qualify for free lunches.
To apply for school meals after this age you’ll need to contact your local council.
You should be eligible for if you claim certain benefits or earn less than £7,400 a year.
Rachel Ingleby, from Citizens Advice said: “We know the start of the school year can be expensive.
“If you’ve claimed benefits for the first time during this pandemic, or have seen your circumstances change, it’s worth checking whether you can apply for extra help with costs.”
Free school transport
Kids can also qualify for free school transport so it’s worth checking.
Those on low incomes or certain benefits, as well as those under eight who have no safe route home can qualify.
While children with special educational needs and disabilities or mobility problems are also entitled to free transport, no matter the distance.
Each local council has its own system – but it could be a free bus pass or seat on a school bus.
To check if your children are eligible visit here.
Get up to £150 toward school uniform costs
If you’re on a low income or benefits then you could get £150 free to help with school uniform costs.
The amount varies depending on where you live and some councils don’t offer any cash.
For example, The Sun has found that Islington offers £150 and Tower Hamlets £110 – but in Blackpool they’ve pulled the grant entirely.
Find out by contacting your local council here.
Go second hand
If you do need to buy new gear for the kids then it’s better for the environment and your pocket if you can buy second-hand.
Single mum and money blogger and author Lynn Beattie, who writes as MrsMummyPenny, said: “If you do have specific logo items to buy then try asking friend with older children.
“Check out second hand uniform reselling website Uniformd or your local Facebook Marketplace.
“If you do have to buy, then buy them big so that they last for as long as possible.”
Outlet shoe shops help you find high street brands for up to 30% off. I like Clarks Outlet, Offcut (which is Office’s outlet shop) and Soletrader.
If you are buying supplies for the new school year then make sure you use cashback.
Websites like TopCashback and Quidco will give you free money for shopping.
Always research first and find the cheapest price before checking if you can get cashback.
For example, get up to 11% cashback when picking up school wear purchases from George at Asda, via TopCashback.
You can also get 10% at WHSmith and 3% at Clarks.
Claim child benefit
Parents with kids under 20 in full-time education or training can claim child benefit.
You’ll get £1,100 a year for your first child – and up to £728 a year for each additional one.
It’s paid every four weeks, but only one parent can claim per child.
If you or your partner earns over £50,000 then you will have to pay back some or all of the benefit via a self-assessment form.
Jo Kerr, from Turn2us, said: “We know parents are twice as likely to be struggling with money as those without children, especially because of the pandemic, which is why it is so important to get all the help you are entitled to.”
Cut down book costs
Book and specialist equipment costs, especially for older kids, can really add up.
“Students get 6-months free Amazon Prime Student membership where they can read books for free or get 10% off.”
“Don’t forget to make full use of the school, college, university or even local library as you can borrow books for free.”
Apps like Olio or websites like Freecycle are great for finding school uniforms and supplies for free.
Search to find out what your neighbours are giving away to help fight waste and save money.