Back-to-School Blowout: Families Tipped to Fork out Billions

As the new school year approaches, Australian parents are bracing themselves for a significant financial hit, with school supplies alone estimated to cost an astonishing $3.5 billion for the upcoming academic year.

A fresh set of school supplies, encompassing textbooks, stationery, and uniforms, will demand an average expenditure of $684 for primary school children and $1,132 for secondary students, according to research by comparison website Finder.

When factoring in additional expenses like tuition fees, camps, excursions, technology, sporting equipment, and transportation costs, the national back-to-school spending surges to a staggering $12.9 billion.

Spending on back-to-school costs will burn a significant hole in parents' pockets, according to new research by Finder, Australia’s most visited comparison site. Credit: supplied.
Spending on back-to-school costs will burn a significant hole in parents’ pockets, according to new research by Finder, Australia’s most visited comparison site. Credit: supplied.

This translates to an average of $2547 for primary school children and $4,793 for secondary students.

Sarah Megginson, personal finance expert at Finder and a mother of three, expressed concern over the overwhelming back-to-school costs, particularly amid the current economic challenges.

“The soaring cost of living is causing genuine stress for many Aussie families. For some, the cost of paying for school expenses right now will be too much to bear,” she said.

Tuition fees are the largest school-related expense, averaging anywhere from $158 for public primary schools to $12,860 for independent secondary schools. This results in a national spend of $3.7 billion.

Megginson advised parents facing financial strain to explore available assistance options.

“Ask your school about payment plans and potentially any financial hardship programs they might have. This could help you manage the costs over a period of months, instead of having to pay a lump sum upfront,” she suggested.

Aside from tuition and supplies, there are various hidden costs, including transportation to and from school (averaging $530 for primary students and $632 for secondary students) and school camps (costing $323 and $458 respectively).

To alleviate some of the financial burden, Megginson offered practical tips.

“Re-use whatever you can from previous years,” she said.

“Your kids don’t always need to start school with brand new supplies. When looking for a new school uniform, don’t forget to check if your child’s school has a second-hand uniform shop. Often the clothes are still in great condition and they’re much more affordable.”

She also encouraged families to plan ahead for future expenses.

“If you can set up a bank account now where you auto-transfer even just $5 a week, that will give you a few hundred dollars to help manage back-to-school expenses when the new school year rolls around in 2025.”

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