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Back to school - navigating those pesky costs!

23 January 2022

Back to school - navigating those pesky costs!

In Australia, back-to-school costs come after Christmas time and summer holidays. There’s a great temptation, and sometimes pressure, to buy a whole new set of supplies at the beginning of every year. 


Here are four steps for achieving straight A's: 

1. Start by shopping at home. Look through the back-to-school supply list (or make your own list) and determine what you really need to buy, versus what you already own and can reuse or repurpose. Sharpen those pencils, dust off any unused books and only buy what’s absolutely needed. 

2. Set your limit. We’ve put together a ‘mini-budget’ to help you plan and set aside amounts for specific costs like back to school. Don’t forget costs throughout the year like excursions, project supplies, sports fees, school photos, fundraisers and extra curricular activities. There are quite a few government assistance programs to help parents cope with the extra costs of school. Be sure to check rebate entitlements – like the Active Kids Program in NSW. 

3. it through. Go through your budget with the whole family. Compromise with each child to make sure you agree on the items you buy. You may need a different budget for each child depending on their age and school requirements. 

4. Do it all again! Start saving for next year’s school supplies now! 

Back to school shopping

Lessons on school uniforms: 

Go old school. Look at second-hand shops, Facebook groups or other parents with older children. 

Buy bigger. Kids grow quickly so buy clothes one size bigger and buy shoes half a size bigger to make them last longer. 

Multi-purpose. Consider sneakers that suit both school and sport. 

Lessons on stationery and supplies: 

Don’t bother with brands. It’s likely that things might be lost or trashed, so aim for less expensive but durable stationery supplies. Shop at discount stores, supermarkets or bulk stationery stores known for good prices or price matching. 

Shop alone (if you can). Bringing your kids with you may mean you spend unnecessary money on brand names or the latest and greatest action hero-themed supplies. 

Make your own. Rather than buy expensive or trendy notebooks and bags, use generic brands and help your kids decorate them with their own art. 

Talking technology: 

Don’t get caught in the cycle of upgrading to the newest, latest and greatest. Consider secondhand options – pre-owned or refurbished computers, laptops and tablets. 

You're the Boss

This information was taken from The Salvation Army’s booklet You’re the Boss – Money Wisdom for Life. 

For more information on the Salvos Moneycare Services, to make an appointment with a financial counsellor or to download the full digital copy of You’re the Boss, go to, call 1800 722 363 or email 


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