Emma Rayner Parker with her sons Harry and Archie. Picture: Damian Shaw
Emma Rayner Parker with her sons Harry and Archie. Picture: Damian Shaw

How to save on back-to-school costs

Parents who put off back-to-school shopping for stationery, uniforms and technology risk getting a "Fail" on the financial front.

New research from Officeworks has found that two-thirds of parents wait until January to shop for school items despite many getting school lists by November.

And more than four in 10 parents buy school supplies directly from their child's school despite this often being a more expensive option.

This is mainly for convenience but also because some aren't aware of alternatives, the survey of more than 1000 parents found.

Emma Rayner Parker is a savvy back-to-school shopper for sons Harry and Archie, aiming to complete it early. She said she knew many people who put it off "because they find it stressful, especially if they have to do it with kids in tow or they are worried it will be expensive".

"I like to see what supplies they bring home from their desk trays first, so I am not buying anything that they can continue to use the next year," Ms Rayner Parker said.

She suggested parents shop for school supplies solo "so you are not persuaded to buy extra items" and avoid school booklist services with expensive delivery fees.

Emma Rayner Parker with her sons Harry, 10 and Archie, 8. Picture: Damian Shaw
Emma Rayner Parker with her sons Harry, 10 and Archie, 8. Picture: Damian Shaw

"I always start by combining the children's school lists together and look for multi packs of items they need, which work out to be better value per item," she said.

Officeworks business manager Jim Berndelis said the "added time pressure that parents might feel" could make back-to-school shopping more expensive.

"Additional spending occurs largely due to the fact parents do not realise they have the opportunity to shop elsewhere," he said.

"There is likely an assumption with many parents that if the school sets the list, then the items on that list must be purchased via the school. However, this is not the case.

"If you find a lower price on an identical stocked item on an official school list, we'll beat it by 20 per cent."

Sort My Money founder David Rankin said parents should make second-hand uniforms and other items their first choice as there was no longer a social stigma attached.

"There are some great school supply stores that sell second-hand books and uniforms, usually in great condition," he said.

Parents could also sell uniforms that no longer fit their own kids, Mr Rankin said.

Technology costs for laptops, tablets and other items have surged and Mr Rankin said the education system had created a "BYO device" environment.

"They didn't used to be part of the family education budget and now they are - even for poorer families," he said.

Parents could consider using school devices where possible, avoid buying the latest, most expensive device, and be disciplined using low-interest credit card deals if finance was necessary, he said.


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