How to save money when children go back to school?
As September comes, we try to find again the balance and get back to routines. For families with children, it also means an increase in their expenditure. There are plenty of digital searchers, sites offering second-hand resources, or platforms for material exchange that help reducing the bill in books and school material.
When holidays come to an end, we need to start making the engine work again, but we have to do it slightly. This is especially important for children, who will have to re-start their habits and prepare the new school year since the beginning of September.
In this sense, it is essential to consider the return to school as a process in which both parents and children collaborate in order to make a smooth adaptation, and get ready for the first day of class, something that also occurs with the family economy. We should not see it as a period of excessive expenditure, but as a long-term inversion that will affect all the members of the family and, thus, will have to be accordingly planned.
According to the survey conducted by the Spanish Organization of Consumers and Users (in Spanish, OCU) the average investment that families made to confront last school year amounted 1,212 euros, while the difference between public and private schools ranged from 841 to 4,086 euros. Although registration fees and extracurricular activities take the greatest part of the budget, we should not forget that books, school material and clothes can actually mean a variation in the final family accounts if these are not well planned.
Fortunately, there are many ways of saving money and the digital world can be of great help to this respect.
Sharing as a way of saving
The majority of autonomous communities and local governments in Spain have diverse types of scholarships; among them, some are devoted to the purchase of school material. Specially designed for this school year, Madrid’s autonomous community has launched “ACCEDE”, a system to loan textbooks for free that, in this first phase, aims to benefit 150,000 students currently enrolled in some of the mandatory educational courses (those with fewer resources will take precedence over the rest). Moreover, in some schools of Barcelona, families do not have to buy the material: they pay a flat rate for the school material they share, and the school is in charge of managing it.
In case this resource cannot be applied or it is not possible for families to access the public scholarships, the purchase in Internet can also mean saving money considering several requisites have been taken into account: the search was adequate and it was made with enough time, the needs have been duly planned and the user was careful with excessively low prices.
According to a survey recently conducted by Amazon among 2,000 Spanish families, more than 65% buy textbooks and school material online, meaning 12.1% more than the previous year and 24% more than in 2016. Among the advantages cited in the survey, we can find the purchase dynamism, the access to complete lists of textbooks and, of course, a more affordable price.
Before clicking, however, it is advisable to visit some sites in order to make sure we have found the best option. These are some examples:
As in trips and insurances, there are searchers that compare the prices of the textbooks in all the online bookshops:
OCU Comparison website. It allows searching any book using the ISBN code or key words (title of the book, author or editorial). Once found, it shows the price available in different bookshops and redirects the user to the chosen shop to complete the online purchase.
Ahorra en Libros. It gives the chance of searching using the ISBN code or keywords, and it works with the most important online bookshops. It prioritizes the price, but also the availability so that the whole list of books is reached in an only purchase, something that can also mean an economic saving. It also lets the customer to send the list of books required via Whatsapp.
OK libros. A comparison website that functions in a similar way as those mentioned before. It profoundly tries to ease the search allowing the users to upload the book list through the computer or sending a picture with their mobile phone. OK libros will then be in charge of making the search and the comparative, and sending the result via email.
Buying second-hand books can produce a remarkable saving. However, two fundamental aspects must be applied: is the edition sought exactly the one requested by the school? Is the book in good conditions?
El Giralibro. A trading web of second-hand books specialized in textbooks that also offers a free delivery if the book is picked-up in Correos post-offices. The idea emerged from the aim of widening the useful life of these books through a collaborative idea: the users deliver the books of the previous year, and then they make a reservation for the next school year.
Relibrea. Once the desired book has been found, this searcher contacts the seller through a specific form and both price and delivery are agreed. It includes textbooks from all the educational levels, fictional books and novels.
The very old practice of bartering returns to our lives through the new technologies, where people who want to make an exchange get connected.
Trueque Book. One of the advantages of this website is that the users can point out the school or high school depending on the suitability and proximity of the book to facilitate the exchange. It not only serves in the search of books, but also of sports material or uniforms.
Bokkint. The main aim of this platform is to facilitate the exchange of books by education centers or parental associations. Consequently, the schools can register and take advantage of the automatization resources in order to start their own exchange program.
Besides books and school material, September is usually the period when the wardrobe is renewed, children get a new schoolbag, and sneakers are changed… In a world where the small ones in the family are constantly bombarded with ads, and through multiple platforms —not only TV, but also Internet, social networks and the so-called ‘influencers’—, it can be a great time for families to work the concept of “responsible purchase”. Apart from making an emphasis in the reuse and care for things, experts advise parents to dialogue about rational consumption and to highlight the difference between needs and whims, arguing the reasons why a certain product cannot be purchased.
As it always happens in the educative field, it is essential to set examples, that is, parents must avoid themselves from compulsively buying, and must not label people according to their possessions, for example, “the clothes they wear” or “the car they drive”. If not, the child will rapidly draw the conclusion that possessions determine our personal value. And there is nothing less educative than that.