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New protractor? Return to school is a repeated, protracted expense, more like – Sept 2021

It’s the end of September, which means I have survived another year’s “return to school” challenge.

If both my kids go to university for 3 years, I only have another 13 years of this which will mean I will have overseen (micro-managed) 21 years of shouted “why didn’t you tell me you needed that before now?”. Not that I’m counting, of course…

August and September are expensive months in my household. The logical half of my brain knows it’s to do with not wearing school uniform for nearly 2 months, but my kids seem to grow more over summer than they do at any other time of year. I try to persuade my daughter that her shoes do fit really (hey, toe-chopping NEARLY worked for Cinderella’s sisters…), but in the last month I have had to buy school shoes x2, trainers x2, football boots x1, trousers x2, shirts x4 (one of which is already wrecked), protractors x2, set squares x2, compass x1, ruler x1, calculator (scientific) x1. At age 12, my son’s feet have gone beyond what the shoe shops consider to be child sizes, and he is into adult shoes which are more expensive as they have VAT added, AND they are designed for walking to work rather than playground football so I fear I will have to replace them before he grows out of them.

Oddly, one of the benefits of money being tight as they go back to school, is that I breathe a sigh of relief in October, and think about whether I can increase how much I am saving in their Junior ISAs each month. I have the Metfriendly escalator selected, so the direct debits will automatically increase each year anyway, but I usually try to increase by a little more in autumn, even if it’s just another £10 – it’s a few cups of coffee missed for me, but will add up to a lot by the time they are looking to buy their first car, or better still, can be rolled straight into Metfriendly’s Lifetime ISA to help them save for their first home deposit, which the Government will kindly top-up by up to £1,000 a year, all tax-free.

If you or any of your family are aged 18-39 and would like to buy a home at some point, you could do worse than look at a Lifetime ISA: it’s one of the best kept secrets of the home-buying world. You save up to £4,000 each tax year into a tax-free ISA, and the Government adds 25% of whatever you pay in, up to £1,000, EVERY YEAR until you hit age 50!

There is a catch, of course: you have to either use the money to buy your first home, or to fund your retirement. But if you open your ISA early enough, over £30,000 of free money isn’t bad.

Sadly, I am too old to qualify for a Lifetime ISA but my kids will get one when they are 18. Hopefully, they’ll have stopped chewing their protractors by then, too.


Annette Petchey, CEO Metfriendly 

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