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Back to school just got $62 more expensive: Here’s how to save

Lucy Dean
Pictured: Happy Australian school boy eats lunch, Australian cash savings in jar. Concept: back to school savings tips. Images: Getty
It's back to school in a few weeks: how will you pay for it? Images: Getty

Families are expected to spend $538 on back to school supplies in 2020, up $62 on 2019’s figures.

That’s according to YouGov research commissioned by Big W which also found that parents are hit with additional technology costs of around $240 from Bring Your Own Device programs, in which students need to supply their own iPads and laptops.

The research found that Victorians will spend the most ($608) while West Australians will spend the least ($506).

And, according to eBay research, nearly half of parents (48 per cent) consider costs and the volume of purchases required as one of their biggest worries at this time of year.

“It seems back to school shopping is becoming more costly and increasingly complex with parents juggling meeting specifications from their child’s school with the latest trends,” eBay Australia’s Sophie Onikul said.

“Once you factor in time and money pressures, you can see why some parents feel more anxious than their children about going back to school!”

Money expert and author of Kill Bills, Joel Gibson described back to school as the final stage of the summertime expenses “triple-whammy”.

“So it’s no wonder families are feeling the pinch at this time of year,” Gibson said.

“There are some simple money saving solutions - and they mostly come back to good planning and being a savvy shopper.”

He said people who begin shopping earlier will save more money as they have the ability to compare prices.

Additionally, shopping with a child during back to school season is generally not a good idea.

“Pester power is real! Two-thirds of Aussie parents (65 per cent) say they overspend on back to school supplies by buying non-essential items thanks to their eager shopping companions. So if you’re keen to save that extra cash, play it safe and leave the kids at home,” he suggested.

Additionally, he suggested budget-conscious families use the ‘before pay’ hack.

“Write ‘before pay’ on a large jar, stick $10 in it every week this year and by next January, you’ll have $520 and back to school will be a breeze!”

Wash more, buy less and other tips

The government’s MoneySmart resource suggests families commit to washing uniforms more often, rather than buying a uniform for every day of the week.

Many schools will also sell second-hand uniforms at reduced prices, or if you have family friends at the school with older children, they may also have second-hand uniforms they can give to you. And once a uniform is in your family, it’s a good idea to save it for any younger children you might have.

And label everything: you don’t want your child’s lost school uniform to end up in someone else’s wardrobe.

“Don't buy into expensive stuff,” MoneySmart suggests.

“Knowing that they might be lost or trashed, aim for cheap but durable stationery supplies that will last, rather than brand name items. Shop at discount stores, supermarkets or bulk stationery stores known for good prices or price matching.”

School subsidies also available

If your savings won’t cut it, there are government subsidies available.

For example, NSW will give families $100 vouchers to put towards sports costs as part of their Active Kids Voucher, and also pay $100 to families enrolling their children in creative classes and activities.

Queensland offers a similar subsidy of $150, and a living away from home allowance as well.

South Australia will give eligible families funds to assist with school fees and uniforms as part of the School Card scheme, and Victoria will also provide free or discounted back to school items through State Schools’ Relief.

The Northern Territory offers a Back to School Payment Scheme and a Sport Voucher Scheme.

Western Australia has a similar scheme, as does Tasmania.

The government also provides concession cards for students’ transport fares:

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