The start of the new academic year is upon us and parents are scurrying around polishing school shoes, checking to see if uniform fits and buying new stationery. But before you go overboard, spending on unnecessary items, here are 8 tips to help minimise the costs of getting the kids back to school.

1. Keep the fees down

If you have only just arrived in the UAE and haven’t secured a school place yet, then choosing the right school for your child could be one of the best ways to cut costs. School fees can range from Dh2,500 to Dh100,000 a year so it is wise to compare all the options to find a place for your child that not only suits their educational needs but also your budgetary needs.

2. Buy secondhand uniform

Yes, it is nice if your little one is all spruced up in a shiny new uniform but it could cost Dh1,000 or more if you buy the full set brand new. Instead, find out if your school has a secondhand uniform shop. While you might not want to buy everything secondhand, it will help you keep costs down especially as children grow so quickly and you will soon be replacing what you buy now.

3. Get a size up

When it comes to school shoes and clothes, it can be worth going a size up to ensure they fit longer. While your child may look a little drowned by their school dress or shorts for a term or so, it means the uniform will last two academic years depending on their growth rate rather than one. While shoe suppliers will always recommend buying a child’s shoe in their actual size, it is still wise to go at least half a size up so that the shoe lasts the full academic year rather than just a term.

4. Deals, deals, deals

The shops are awash with school bags, pencil cases, lunch boxes and all the back to school items you can imagine with some of the bigger budget supermarkets offering some great deals on school ranges. So shop around for the best bargains on the market.

5. Stagger what you buy

When you do hit the shops, go easy. The children don’t need three water bottles for school when one will do. Yes, you will have to make sure it is washed at the end of each day, but stocking up on water bottles, lunch boxes and pencil cases is unnecessary when they are not going to use everything at once. Some of the items could sit in the store cupboard unused for months on end so only buy what you need to help keep costs down.

6. Consider the bus

If the logistics of getting your child to and from school are tricky because both parents work, you might be looking at hiring a driver for pick up duty or sending the maid in a taxi. Both options will be very costly so why not consider the school bus. School buses have improved drastically in recent years with many schools now offering female bus conductors to ensure the safety of your child. As long as there is someone at home to meet your child off the bus, it could be a faster and certainly cheaper method of transportation.

7. Paying the fees

Don’t pay the term’s fees in one go and drain your cash reserves or load up the credit card if you can’t afford to. Speak to the school directly and ask if you can stagger payments. Fees can be paid in monthly installments and some school groups, such as GEMS, offer special credit cards with a 0% Easy Payment Plan option to help you spread those payments over 12 months.

8. Avoid costly clubs

In the next few weeks you will be asked to sign up your children for after school clubs. To keep costs down, only pick clubs hosted by schoolteachers rather than outside companies. This is because they are generally free whereas external companies will charge hefty fees. Also, rather than sending your children to after school lessons for musical instruments or sports that you enjoy – check whether they actually want to do them. It could save you a fortune.