Tips for when school fees and sundries are getting out of hand

February 12, 2019


I must have been very naive thinking that school fees ended at just school fees, and I’m learning that the budget needs to take into account eleventy and twenty nine things that aren’t actually school fees. I’m not complaining, and I realise lots of these are bought by choice, and not always obligation.

Here’s what I mean, and I’m excluding basic stationery and uniform because that’s kind of a given. This is what we’ve had to do in the last month that’s school related.

Max, aged 9: cricket coaching, school camp (and associated gear and tuckshop money), and a school art extra mural.

Rebecca, aged 2: ballet and soccer extra murals, ballet kit, tissues, toilet paper and wipes for the school.

I anticipate costs like these each month, and we’re not talking about other school-related things like tuckshop money, lunches, outings, presents for kids’ birthdays, uniform top-ups.

Research by Liberty Group Limited has found that the approximate total cost of education for a newborn child is estimated around R2 million for private schooling and R701 000 for public schooling. 

This excludes extra costs such as uniforms, textbooks, stationery, transport, extramural activities, and accommodation. And in my case, 3G, WIFI and iTunes vouchers!

Okay, so there’s not much one can do about expenses if your child is going to school, but I guess it’s about allocating space in your monthly budget for related costs that you don’t see coming, and trying to tighten the belts so that the school-related costs aren’t that debilitating.

Here are some tips via Liberty, and ones that I’ve learnt along the way.

Create a budget

There is not much more boring and saddening on the admin front for me than creating a budget, and seeing that you can’t afford the new shoes or eating out twice a month.

BUT, figuring out your fixed and variable expenses, and looking at your bank statements, will allow you to see exactly where your money is going, which will help you make smart decisions on what you could cut out of your life.

You’ll likely find that you’re spending money on things you don’t need, or you’ll see opportunities where you could be paying less for things. It’s also a great feeling at the end of the month when you are under budget, and you can put your money into a savings account, or towards your credit card bill, for example.

They say you should try the 50-20-30 budget method: 50% of your net income should go towards your needs, 30% towards your wants, and 20% to your savings and debt repayments.


It sounds so easy when people say this, and I don’t really think it’s as simple as that. I like to think of saving money as cutting out what makes sense to you, and doing something that’s sustainable, not something that’s impractical.

This could mean only buying things that are on sale, making all your work lunches at home, only eating takeaway food once a month, scouring shops and sites for grocery specials, turning off the lights, only buying budget beauty items.

You could save hundreds of rands a month, which equates to thousands by the end of the year. This money can be saved for emergencies, or put towards education policies, for example.

Use discounts/vouchers and loyalty rewards

This might sound so obvious/simple/dumb, but those rewards programmes and card swipings could save you hundreds each month. Remember though that even if you’re getting a discount or buying on special, only buy what you need, not what you want. And ask yourself… do you really need three cartons of almond milk, or are you just getting them because they’re on special?

Sell your goods

Do you have any used or unwanted items that you’re happy to part ways with? There are many selling platforms such as Gumtree, and various Facebook group where you can sell your unwanted items. These are also good platforms if you want to buy items at reduced prices.

Buy second hand

Many schools have second-hand book shops and uniform shops, so you
can save significantly buying those school essentials.

Get inventive with your meals

There are lots of budget-friendly and nutritious meals that you can whip up for your famly. There are great resources online – a favourite is Taste of Home.

Free or cost-effective entertainment

Look at forms of “free” entertainment, such as picnics in the park, or a movie night at home, with homemade popcorn. I’m a fan of child-friendly markets where there’s usually entertainment, a place for the kids to run around, and inexpensive food (or better yet – pack your own food!).

All images via Shutterstock

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1 Comment


    Thank you so much, very helpful and informative

    February 13, 2019 at 1:20 am Reply
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