Well, the Christmas decorations are packed away, the goodies are almost gone. The presents have been played with, broken, lost and forgotten and the New Years fireworks went off with a bang. Resolutions have been broken and bank accounts plundered at the post Christmas sales. The floods are still around but the response has been swift and large. Alarms went off all over town this morning as workers made their way back to the daily grind.
Goodbye festive season, hello real world.
For those of us with children, now is the time to prepare for the day, later this month, when our children will don hideous outfits and oversized backpacks and head off into the abyss.....sometimes referred to as school.
I have three children (we chose to live by the old adage....quit when they start to outnumber you) and two of those will be making their mark in a classroom this year. One will be making his debut.
Yesterday I decided it was time to start the preparations for this big event. My first order of business was to download their school book list from the net (thankyou kindly Harley's Educational) to see what I am in for. Question: Who decided that text books were necessary for Prep students? Seriously, two of them? Amazing. Nonetheless, the combined total for the two kids will amount to somewhere in the vicinity of $400. Lovely. My daughter, in year 5 this year, will need the bulk of that, so next year will be truly frightening when my son is in year 1 and will need more textbooks and plenty of other odds and ends. I can't wait!
After recovering from the shock I moved on to uniforms. Who else thinks it was a great idea to make boys and girls in the same school wear different coloured socks? What that means for me is that I now need to buy two lots of socks instead of getting them to share. Then there are the shoes. Black, velcro sports shoes. That's what is says on the form I received. Not too hard I thought, until I found that my son has big feet and it was nearly impossible to find school shoes with VELCRO in his size. Still, I must sincerely thank the DFO for having a Williams The Shoemen and ample supply of discontinued school shoes. So far, I have dressed my children's feet. I suppose that's a start at least.
Next will come the actual clothes. Dresses for the girl. Shirt and shorts for the boy. Sports uniforms, coloured shirts for sports days and school hats. Most of which is only available at Uniform Link. Cheap? Well, no!
School bag...check. School lunchboxes....check. Guess what my kids got for Christmas? Yep...school stuff.
I am just one of many hundreds of thousands of parents all over Australia doing the same thing at this time of year. Struggling to pay for all of these 'necessary' items so that our children can attend school and learn how to bully other kids while texting. We are already struggling with paying for mortgages, rates, groceries, petrol, utilities and vehicles. It is not an easy time of year.
I always wondered why we have all of this pressure on us to buy kids amazing presents for Christmas plenty of us can't afford, spend up big at the sales, then pay out huge amounts for our kids to go to school? Seems like an awful lot of expense in just a few weeks! Still, we do it anyway. We have no choice in the matter. Children are sent home from school if they have a button missing on their shirt so the onus is on us to make sure we do the job properly.
It's not all bad news though. The Government introduced a payment for parents in the form of a tax rebate to help with the costs of Education. We can now claim for quite a few of the items that our children require, all we have to do is keep the receipts. It can't be claimed until July but it's worth the wait. Every parent should be keeping every receipt in a safe place for use when they do their taxes.
So, what can you claim?
Uniforms? No. Socks? No. Shoes? No. Backpacks? No. Lunchboxes? No. Schools fees? No. Subject levies? No.
Computer or laptop purchase? Yes. Internet connection? Yes. USB flashdrives and other computer related equipment? Yes. Computer programs? Yes. Trade tools? Yes. Textbooks? Yes. Pencils, textas, biro's, calculators, folders, exercise books....YES.
So, with two children in primary school, neither of which have much use yet for a computer (even if we could afford another one) and neither even close to doing a school based trade...we can claim for textbooks only. Still with textbooks totalling about $300 for both...I will take the $150 it gets me. Every little bit helps.
The Government has been complaining that the rebate is not being taken up by parents or they are simply not claiming to the maximum allowed. Well frankly, most of us can't. There is no way my two children will be anywhere near claiming the full $750 each they are entitled to. This would give us back $325 per child which would be fantastic, but I am not buying a new computer and giving my 5 and 9 year old internet access just to get a few extra dollars back in August.
The Opposition advocated raising the amount claimable and adding uniforms to the list of allowable items. I don't think that is necessary. Simply adding uniforms while leaving the amount where it is would make a huge difference for most of us, without the need to take more from the already strained coffers. The current amount has already been budgeted for but nobody can use it.
Still, whatever happens at tax time is irrelevant today. Today, I will go and buy the uniforms....next week the textbooks....and following that, the hats, library bags and drink bottles. Then I will get all that booty home and frantically attempt to get it all labelled, covered and organised by the time school begins.
Wish me luck.....I'm going to need it!