CAC Advises Parents to Spend Wisely on School Supplies


The summer holidays signal a break from school and studies for children, while for parents it means budgeting and calculating costs and needs for the new school term.
For some parents, this means having to find thousands of dollars to spend on back-to-school shopping, a situation which is sometimes a burdensome task.
To make this year’s shopping experience less stressful on the mind and pocket, the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) is once again encouraging parents to make budgets, shop around, and spend wisely.
Communication Specialist at the CAC, Dorothy Campbell explains that budgeting is very important as it is one of the key areas to focus on in developing a plan for back-to-school expenses.
“First you determine how much money you have, then you have to find out what the needs are and then you create a budget, thereby balancing money and needs,” she explains.
Miss Campbell urges parents to spend time to analyze their financial situation, so as to determine where to source the funds and the best place to find the items in order to minimize over-extending themselves physically and financially.
Parents, she advises are to make a list of all the different expenses for their child that would include school fees, school supplies such as textbooks, pencils, pens, notebooks and uniforms.
She urges parents to also set aside how much they are going to spend on transportation, lunch, snacks and other incidentals such as school field trips.
“We ask the parents to make a list of what is available at the school since very often schools will provide items that are at a lower price than on the open market,” the Communication Specialist suggests.
Another option, she says, is for parents to seek advice from other parents whose child attends the same school. This, she notes, may result in a further benefit, as those parents may offer second hand books and supplies.
Where a parent is having difficulty meeting the requirements of a school, the CAC Communication Specialist recommends open dialogue with the school: “If a parent is experiencing unusual financial difficulty, school officials will offer advice as to what options are available whether under the school programme or a Government programme.”
Turning to textbooks, which are critical to back-to-school shopping, Miss Campbell says parents should entertain the various options available and settle on the best one that meet their budget.
In the instance where parents have decided to purchase a new book from the bookstore, she points them to the CAC’s Annual School Textbook Survey results which will be available by mid August at: www.consumeraffairsjamaica.gov.jm.
The survey will assist parents in “ascertaining where the best prices on new books are available in their parish or town,” she tells JIS News.
Otherwise, she suggests that parents telephone several bookstores to compare the prices or visit different stores to see the prices for themselves.
She stresses that parents should avoid purchasing the wrong textbook and by taking along with them a copy of the booklist when shopping rather than relying on memory.
It is important “to match the author’s name, the volume, the book number, whether it is Book One or Book Two, whether or not it is the revised edition.they have to check for these things because each year or very soon after one edition, you have a new edition being published,” she emphasizes.
“When books are purchased,” Miss Campbell adds, “ensure that they are wrapped, kept in good condition and that no permanent marks are made in them. This way, you can sell or exchange them next term, thus reducing next year’s back to school expenses,” she points out.
Other options for sourcing textbooks are the school’s book rental scheme or second hand books from family and friends, as well as from stores that offer second hand books for sale.
“They could seek out whether or not there are exchange programmes or book drives happening in their community, church or the school, or the parents could get very creative and host their own book drive, so that it would facilitate helping other parents,” Miss Campbell says.
She suggests the following tips for parents who are shopping for the new school term.
For school supplies, take advantage of bargains and buy multiple quantities that the child may need further in the year. If you purchase two pairs of shoes, pants or shirts, buy the second pair a size or two larger, as the child may grow by the time he or she is ready to use these items.
When buying notebooks, try getting those with hard covers as they tend to last longer.
Before purchasing new uniforms, examine the ones the child already has to see if they can still be worn, then decide how many uniforms you really need to buy. (Some schools have ready-made uniforms available on sale to their students. This may prove less expensive than buying the fabric and accessories and having the garments made by a professional tailor or dressmaker).
When buying shoes, ensure they are of quality workmanship and fit properly. Avoid impulse shopping and ensure that you are getting the best quality. Check shoes for stitched or glued soles. Check to ensure that eyelets, laces and or buckles do not break or fall off easily.
Do not be fooled into thinking that ‘brand names’ are synonymous with better quality. The generic or not so popular manufacturers may last longer. Insist on comfort and durability then incorporate style.
When buying ready-made clothes or having them made, ensure that buttons are sewn on strongly, zips work easily and there is a seam allowance and that there are no loose threads to make the clothes appear untidy.
When buying bags you may be tempted to choose a stylish bag rather than how practical and durable the design and fabric are. Remember these bags need to be durable enough for the weight of textbooks and other supplies.
The Consumer Affairs Commission welcomes feedback from parents, who are also invited to call 926-1650-2 or visit their website at www.consumeraffairsjamaica.gov.jm for further information.

JIS Social