(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) With a little over a week to go before the new school year starts, Sharjah resident Sanna has been frantically calling her parent friends, checking if any of them have old textbooks her daughter could use.
"Please keep your child's books for my daughter, I can share hers for your younger kids, too," Sanna would tell her pals.
For a number of parents in the UAE, this has become a yearly routine to minimise education expenses - which all have to be paid on top of hefty rents and day-to-day costs.
Sharjah resident Shazia said: "Looking at the spiraling costs of books, fees and uniforms, families do try to minimise costs wherever possible. I also often check for used textbooks from other students, who are willing to give them away."
Starting this week, many parents will be queueing up at their kids' campuses to settle all back-to-school fees. Some would have to weigh their options and decide on the best way to pay - cash, post-dated cheque or credit card?
Fasih Muhammad Qamar, father of three boys, said: "The cost of living has shot up and there is no denying that education and rents are the biggest components of any expatriate's salary, especially in the month of September."
But Qamar explained there are measures that could be taken to somehow reduce the burden on families.
"Currently, most schools only allow parents to pay quarterly, but for many families, a monthly installment option would be a big help," he said.
Cheaper books, uniforms
Bookstores, on the other hand, are bracing for the spike in demand from parents scrambling for cheaper textbooks.
Lionel Peter, who has two kids studying in Dubai, is one of them.
"If you compare the prices of the books offered in schools with those sold in bookstores outside the campus, you'll save about Dh1,000 per child," Peter said.
Then, parents would have to shell out a few more dirhams to get the books covered and labelled, he added.
Sharjah resident Amna Kashif, who has two daughters studying in Dubai, agree that buying books outside the school is the way to go.
"Education expenses have certainly gone through the roof. Aside from that, students have to be presentable with their uniforms and all."
Even a simple pair of uniform would cost at least Dh200, Kashif said.
Tailors have been busy with orders from parents who choose to get their kids' uniforms stitched than buy ready-made ones from schools.
Ganesh Dyneshwar Kakade, who works at 1337 bespoke tailoring company in City Walk, said parents come to their shop not only to save some money but to get high-quality uniforms for their children.
"Some of those who come to us say they are not happy with the quality of garments used in the uniforms sold in schools. Others, however, find it cheaper to place an order with us," Kakade said.
Another tailoring shop in Sharjah said: "The families in the emirate are now returning from long vacations and, hence, we are expecting a surge in customers next week as schools reopen."
For students' daily home-school-home transports, fees are fixed for an entire quarter.
So, even if a family needs transport assistance for only a month or two, parents would still have to pay for an entire quarter.
This is why a number of expatriates resort to education loans as some said they could not afford to shoulder all the fees in one go.
Journalist. Period. My interests are Economics, Finance and Information Technology. Prior to joining Khaleej Times, I have worked with some leading publications in India, including the Economic Times.