Reducing back to school costs

Save on school costs

The cost of sending kids to school can add up quickly. Not only are there uniforms, bags, shoes, stationery supplies and school fees to pay, there are also lunches, excursion and transport costs to consider.

Here are some ideas to help prepare and save for the school year ahead.  

Save on school uniforms

If a uniform is required for your school, here are some cost-effective ways to buy school uniforms: 

  • Buy the essentials - Don't buy a uniform for every day of the week, instead buy a few full sets and commit to do the washing more often.
  • Spread the costs - Put off buying warmer clothes until the seasons change.
  • Go second-hand - Most school uniform shops sell very serviceable second hand uniforms at much reduced prices. Or ask parents with older kids at your school if they have any second-hand items they can hand on to you.
  • Family hand-me-downs - If you have a few kids at the same school, try to hand down some uniform items to younger siblings.
  • Label everything - Putting your child's name on every single uniform item is important as it means it will be returned to you if they lose it. Make the label as large and obvious as possible so if it accidentally gets taken home by another child, the parent will quickly see it's not their child's.

It is a good idea to create a budget and work out your school expenses. Be sure to include extra costs that might come up during the year, such as excursions and project supplies. This could be a good opportunity to teach your kids about the importance of budgeting. 

Create a budget and factor school expenses into your spending.

Budget planner

Save on stationery and supplies

Here are some ways to help cut the costs of school supplies for your kids:

  • Use what you already have - Search all the desks and drawers in your home and collect the stationery you already have, so you'll only need to buy the items you are missing.
  • Go early but look for sales items - Start shopping early for school supplies to avoid the queues and get what you need, rather than just what's left but also remember that some retailers put leftover school supplies on clearance. Keep an eye out for these and stock up.
  • Avoid impulse buys - Stick to a list or go shopping without the kids so you won't be tempted by them to buy more than you need.
  • Don't buy into expensive stuff - 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.
  • Label your child's property - Clearly label everything your child takes to school - it will save you in the long run as the items will come back to you fast if they get lost.
  • Set a limit - If your kids are older, agree on a budget with them so they can choose what they get and at the same time learn a life lesson about budgeting and managing money.  

Save on school lunches and transport costs

School lunches

Be prepared each week by planning school lunches. Search catalogues for good deals on lunch and snack items, and make meals in bulk if you can. 

Transport costs

If your child is catching public transport to school, make sure you apply for a valid concession card for cheaper fares. 

If you live in a remote area and your child cannot get public transport, your state or territory will provide a scheme to offset the costs of getting to school. Here are details about different schemes:

Government assistance with school costs

There are quite a few assistance programs to help parents cope with the extra costs of school. 

Saver Plus matched savings

Saver Plus is a program to help families on low incomes develop savings habits, and could help save up for larger school costs like fees and excursions. It helps you reach a saving goal and then matches it dollar for dollar, up to $500. 

For more information, visit the Saver Plus website, call or SMS 1300 610 355 or email saverplus@bsl.org.au.

Government assistance

Some financial assistance is available to families on a low income. Some are means tested or require parents to hold a concession card.  

School costs can add up quickly, especially if you have more than one child. To save money, be prepared, shop early, and keep an eye out for specials and second-hand items.


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Last updated: 17 Dec 2018