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Back-to-school budget blowout: Families to fork out $12.9 billion


Spending on back-to-school costs will burn a significant hole in parents' pockets, according to new research by Finder.

Finder crunched the numbers on school expenses in 2024 and found that school supplies alone are expected to set families back an eye-watering $3.5 billion for the year ahead.

A new set of school supplies – including textbooks, stationery and a uniform – will cost parents on average $684 for primary school children and $1,132 for secondary students.

When other costs – such as tuition fees, camps, excursions, technology, sporting equipment and transport – are factored in, this skyrockets to a national spend of $12.9 billion.

That's $2,547 for each primary school child and $4,793 for secondary students on average.

Sarah Megginson, personal finance expert at Finder and mother of 3, said the back-to-school costs are staggering.

"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.

"It's becoming tough for parents to provide their kids with all the essentials. From uniforms, to tech, to sports equipment, stationery – the checklist can seem never-ending."

The data shows tuition fees are the largest school expense, costing parents on average anywhere from $158 for a public primary school to $12,860 for an independent secondary school.

This adds up to a national spend of $3.7 billion.

There are more than 10 private schools in Australia where tuition is more than $40K a year for a year 12 day student, according to Futurity Investment Group. This includes Geelong Grammar School in Victoria which charges a whopping $46,344 per year.

Megginson urged parents who are struggling to see what help is available.

"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," Megginson said.

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

Hidden costs include transport to and from school – costing primary students on average $530 and secondary students $632 – and school camps, costing $323 and $458, respectively.

Megginson said families can cut down on back-to-school costs in a few clever ways.

"Re-use whatever you can from previous years. Your kids don't always need to start school with brand new supplies, and there are plenty of items like school bags, colouring pencils and scissors that can outlast the school year without needing to be replaced.

"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.

"For items that might easily be lost such as lunch boxes and water bottles, opt for budget-friendly brands."

Megginson encouraged families to think ahead to next year now.

"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."

For more information, including how to save on back-to-school costs, visit Finder's back-to-school costs page.

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