Parents share five tips for back to school shopping without breaking the bank


Summer holidays are almost over and as kids prepare to head back to class parents are facing thousands of dollars in back to school costs.

Whether its clothes, books, stationery or tuition, it’s easy to find yourself feeling the financial pain even before your little ones march through the school gates.

For Brisbane mum Naomi Dorland, the costs are doubled thanks to her twins, who are heading into fifth grade.

It’s an undeniably expensive time of year for parents, Ms Dorland said.

“Particularly when you’ve got twins, you can’t hand down school uniforms, they need their own everything.”

BIG W’s annual Back to School Report finds that parents will be spending an average of $526 per child on back to school essentials.

When those costs are combined with other school expenses, the figure adds up quickly. Finder data shows parents are often out of pocket more than $3600 per high school child, including tuition, camps and transport.

But where there’s a will, there’s a way. Here’s five tips to help you save money on the back to school shop – straight from parents themselves.

Check the school uniform code

Uniforms can be one of the largest back to school costs, but luckily there are ways to find bargains.

Ms Dorland said it is worth taking the time to find out whether all of your child’s uniform must be a specific brand purchased from an official uniform shop.

If not, you are free to shop around for some cheaper alternatives.

For example, Ms Dorland said shorts for sale at her school’s uniform shop are $30, but Best & Less has similar styles for just $5 each.

“I saved some money [because] our school allows us to wear the generic shorts and just a school shirt,” she said.

Use social media to buy second-hand

Social media can also be a great place to save by buying second-hand.

Ms Dorland said community Facebook groups or ‘buy, swap, sell’ pages often have cheap school supplies.

It could come in particularly handy if your child attends private school, which usually means uniforms are more expensive, she said.

“I buy whatever shirts I can buy second-hand,” she said.

“My other biggest tip is to buy a second-hand spare hat and keep it in the glove box, because without fail, one of [the kids] will forget their hat once a week.”

Buy in bulk

Another tip is to buy in bulk at the start of the year to avoid spending big later.

Ms Dorland recommended buying several pairs of plain white socks to save the pain of sorting them out after every wash.

“Who’s got time for matching socks?” she said.

Melbourne mum-of-two Olivia White said bulk-buying non-perishable foods for lunchboxes can also save you a fortune over the year.

Recycle the old

Just because it is a new year, doesn’t mean your kids need all new everything.

Mum-of-three and Finder senior money editor Sarah Megginson said parents should try to reuse whatever they 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 and drink bottles that can outlast the school year without needing to be replaced,” she said.

Plan ahead

Ms Megginson said she always writes a list before shopping to make sure she stays on track and avoids splurging on unnecessary items.

If you’re up for some even more planning, she said you should also consider setting up a bank account and auto-transferring a set amount for the next round of 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 2023,” she said.

“If you can afford to set aside $10 or $20 a week, you may even have Christmas and back to school supplies covered.”

Technology is also a big part of modern schooling, and can be one of the biggest costs for parents.

Ms White said if your kids need big-ticket items like tablets or laptops for school, spending the time researching the best deals online can often mean savings of hundreds of dollars.

Online research makes it easy to compare pricing and models to make sure you are getting the best deals, she said.

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