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Back to school costs 2022

Parents will fork out $20.3 billion on back to school costs this year.

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The beginning of a new year marks the dreaded back to school shop for parents across the country.

Finder crunched the numbers and found parents will spend $20.3 billion on back to school costs in 2022, including tuition, school supplies and other expenses.

How much will parents spend on back to school costs?

Considering all costs – like tuition fees, camps, excursions, sporting equipment and transport – parents are shelling out $3,621 per primary school child per year and $6,957 on secondary students.

That adds up to a whopping national spend of $20.3 billion – $8.2 billion spent on primary school children and $12.1 billion for secondary school children.

It might not surprise you to find out tuition makes up a larger portion of secondary school costs (68%) than primary school costs (56%).

How much does tuition cost in Australia?

Tuition fees are the biggest school expense, costing parents on average anywhere between $175 for a public primary school to $23,269 for a private secondary school. This adds up to a national spend of $12.8 billion per year.

New South Wales ranks as the most expensive state for private schools, with the average private tuition costing $18,564 per year for primary students and $23,269 per year for secondary students.

Victoria comes in second place, costing $15,376 and $21,270 respectively.

Among primary government and Catholic schools, those in New South Wales are also the most expensive in the country.

However, when it comes to secondary schools, Victorian government schools take the lead ($1,012). Catholic secondary schools in the ACT ($6,295) are the priciest in Australia.

How much do school supplies cost?

A fresh set of school supplies complete with textbooks, stationery and a uniform will cost parents $570 for primary school children and $780 for secondary students.

Across the country, school supplies are expected to cost families a staggering $2.5 billion for the year ahead.

School uniforms are the priciest back-to-school item, costing $268 for primary students and $303 for secondary students each year. Textbooks come in second place at $128 and $250, respectively, while school shoes cost an average of $110 per year for all students.

What are the other hidden costs?

School tuition and supplies can add up quickly, but there are plenty of other things parents will spend money on this year.

Some hidden costs include transport to and from school, costing primary students $477 and secondary students $569, and school camps costing $291 and $413, respectively.

Overall, these additional expenses come to $1,050 per primary child and $1,506 for secondary students each year.

What about laptops and devices?

Because devices like laptops and tablets are not used in all schools, we excluded them from our analysis – but for those who need them, they can come at a steep price.

Research from Futurity Group found parents can expect to pay $462 per year on devices in primary school, and $734 in secondary school. Over a child's 12 years in education, this adds up to $7,962.

Some argue it shouldn't be the parents' responsibility to buy laptops for school. A recent Finder survey found 56% of parents believe they should not be responsible for equipping their children with a device for school.

This includes 43% who think the device should be provided by the school, and 13% who say children don't need a device at school.

Women (70%) are more likely than men (59%) to believe parents shouldn't have to purchase a laptop for their children.

How to save on back to school costs

Buy quality where it counts. You can extend the lifespan of backpacks by shopping around for something durable that will withstand years of being tossed around. On the other hand, stick to budget-friendly brands when it comes to losable items like lunch boxes and water bottles. There's no point in buying something fancy if you're going to have to replace it 6 months later.

Buy a few sizes up. Kids grow! Before you know it, they've outgrown the school uniform that cost you hundreds of dollars. Avoid forking out on a new uniform every year by buying a few sizes up. It might look a bit large on them now, but they'll quickly grow into it. A small amount of wiggle room in their shoes will help too.

Get on the front foot. Don't leave your school shop to the last minute – facing crowds and empty shelves will be stressful for both you and your kids. Start shopping early and look out for back to school sales. This can save you hundreds of dollars over the year, especially on pricey items like laptops.


Methodology

  • Finder used pricing data from Kmart, Officeworks and the Athlete's Foot to calculate the average annual cost of back to school items for primary and secondary school students.
  • Analysis assumes some items (e.g. notebooks and pens) are purchased annually, while others are purchased less frequently (e.g. uniforms).
  • Statistics on school supplies are based on Finder's list of back to school items.
  • Data on tuition and the cost of uniforms, textbooks and other equipment was sourced from Futurity Investment Group.
  • Demographic data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics were used to calculate national spend.

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