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Back-to-school burden: 1 in 3 Australian parents can’t afford costs

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Back-to-school costs are a huge burden for millions of Aussie families this year, according to new research by Finder.

A Finder survey of 1,039 respondents – 359 of which are parents – revealed 30% can't afford back-to-school expenses.

That's 1.9 million households who don't have the funds for items like stationery and uniforms.

Finder analysis found parents will spend $12.9 billion on back-to-school costs in 2024. That's $2,547 for each primary school child and $4,793 for secondary students on average.

More than 1 in 10 (11%) Aussie parents admit they will have to go into debt to pay for back-to-school costs.

A further 13% of families say they'll have to buy second-hand items or use hand-me-downs to get their child back in the classroom.

Sadly 4% of families say their child will have to go without.

Sarah Megginson, personal finance expert at Finder and mother of 3, said a growing number of households can no longer afford to pay for school necessities.

"School expenses are causing enormous financial strain on those who have very little left over once they've put a roof over their heads and food on the table.

"Household budgets are extremely tight coming through a difficult 12 months coupled with Christmas costs weighing heavily on them."

The research shows just half (50%) of Australian parents can comfortably afford their child's back-to-school costs.

"This is a widespread problem – and with the cost of living crisis extending into 2024 – the pressure isn't likely to ease anytime soon."

Megginson said families should avoid short term loans and personal loans to pay for school supplies if possible.

"You will end up further in the red and in even more financial difficulty.

"Shop around as there are big price differences between the different retailers. Also ask around on your local Facebook groups if anyone has any unwanted stationery and look into what grants and other assistance is available from your state or territory government to help with school expenses."

Megginson urged people in severe hardship to speak to their child's school.

"Ask your child's school whether they can provide financial assistance for compulsory items like uniforms, school excursion and school supplies.

"Some schools have funds set aside to cover these types of expenses for families in financial hardship.

"Look into local non-profit organisations or charities that provide school supplies, backpacks and even clothing for students in need.

"While it's front of mind – it's a good idea to set up a savings account for back-to-school expenses next year that you contribute to monthly to help spread the cost."

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

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