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Rose Miller, grants manager at the JN Foundation and head of the JN Bank BeWi$e financial empowerment programme, addresses the audience during a recent financial empowerment seminar.

With the new school year set to start in just a matter of days, Rose Miller, grants manager at the JN Foundation, is advising parents who are behind with their back-to-school shopping to “try not to stress”.

“It is easy to stress when you are behind on any task, but stress and panic will only make the situation far worse,” she said.

Mrs Miller, who is also head of the JN Bank BeWi$e financial empowerment programme, said the key is for parents to get organised and to start the process immediately.

“Though you’re shopping in a rush, you don’t want to overspend or to buy what you don’t need,” she advised. “Whether you’re starting out early or late, the principles to carry out your back-to-school shopping remain the same.”

She also noted that while the last minute shopper might be working with very limited time, they are still in a position to take advantage of deals, and save on the cost of books and other school supplies for their children.

“Your first objective is to prepare a list and prioritise them, dealing with the most important items first; a budget should then be prepared. Uniforms and textbooks should generally be at the top of the list,” she stated.

Mrs Miller advised that parents don’t have to buy everything new, simply because it’s a new school year.

“It may be advisable to examine the condition of the uniforms your child has now to see if they fit and in a condition where they can still be worn,” she stated. Based on this, parents can then decide whether new uniforms are required.”

She noted that the same rule can be applied to items such as lunch kits, school bags, shoes and igloos. “This is why it is important to not only buy quality products, so that they last a longer time, but to also teach children how to take care of the items, thus reducing the need to purchase the same items each year.”

As it regards textbooks, Mrs Miller noted that if funds are tight and parents are unable to buy all the required books at once, they must speak with their child’s teacher to ascertain which of the books are most essential, as opposed to those that can be purchased at a later date.

“In this way, you will be able to ensure that your child has the most important books for the first few months of the school year,” she reasoned.

The JN Foundation grants manager added that when purchasing textbooks, parents should do their research, shop around, and try to access books, at the most affordable prices.

“Use the telephone or go online; and, you won’t waste time and gas driving around from store to store,” she advised. “Also, it is still not too late to ask friends and relatives to help you source used textbooks.”

Mrs Miller also recommended that saving for back-to-school expenses is critical, pointing out that parents should have started putting money aside months ago.

“This is one of those expenses that you know will come up months in advance. Once you have a child attending school, you have to plan for school expenses, this does not fall in the category of “emergency expenses” and should, therefore, not be something that creeps up on parents,” Mrs Miller maintained.

She said many parents find themselves in a financial quandary at this time of the year and is advising that, to supplement their budget, they should explore the possibility of accessing the various grants and scholarship offers, which are often available.

“The downside of this, however, is that you would need to make an early start in your back-to-school preparations, to take full advantage of those offers, as the application deadline for most scholarships would have been long gone,” she said.

Mrs Miller also pointed out that there are some churches and other organisations that may have last minute book drives and back-to-school fairs.

“These are some of the options that parents can use to supplement their back-to-school budget and secure books and other school supplies for free or at a minimal cost.

Persons can also access various loan offers, which are now available at approved financial institutions; however, parents need to ensure that they are using these credit facilities wisely,” she explained.

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