Wise Back-to-School Finance Hacks From Aussie Parents

14 January 2020
The back-to-school period is almost upon us, with parents around Australia ticking off their ‘to-do’ lists as they prepare to usher their kids towards the school gates.

Educating our children can come with a hefty price tag. In fact, The Australian Scholarship Group (ASG) estimated the total cost for Catholic education for a child who started school in 2019 in metropolitan Australia to be around $127,027 and $109,877 in regional Australia, or independent education (non-Catholic private schooling) to be around $298,689 in metropolitan areas and $201,210 in regional. The equivalent cost to educate a child in the public system is around $68,727 in metropolitan areas and $57,994 in regional areas. (These costs include items beyond fees such as clothing, travel, shoes and excursions).

But before you drop off your mini-mes to reunite with their friends and teachers, there are likely a few expenses to be taken care of. So, we’ve asked a collection of parents who have been there and done that for their top tips on organising back-to-school prep with less strain on the bank balance.

1. Check your rebate entitlements

“You could be eligible to receive money from your state or territory government, depending on your circumstances. For example, the NSW Government introduced the Active Kids Program in January 2018. Every family in NSW with a child enrolled in school from kindergarten to year 12 is now eligible for two $100 vouchers, which can be used for participating in sport activities.  It’s not means tested and two vouchers are available for every child in the family annually.

This contribution can help with your child’s sports and fitness activities and take some of the heat away from that ‘extra-curricular’ expenditure many parents feel. It can be used for activities like swimming lessons, outdoor education programs and other approved sporting pursuits or structured fitness programs. Full details of eligible activities can be found on the NSW Office of Sport website.”- Rebecca Maher

About Rebecca Maher

Rebecca is a financial adviser, coach and fellow mum to two little girls under five.  She is Head Financial Coach at The Fiscal Mum, a financial advisory business that works with busy mums and their families to help them live their best family life. 




2. Invest in quality for the long term

“When it comes to items such as school shoes, consider the quality versus price equation. It can be all too easy to buy the cheapest shoes you can find, but you could end up buying another pair every term if they wear out. Wait until the last minute and buy a decent pair, ideally with removable soles to discard as the feet grow. If you’re lucky they will last the whole year. Also, once you’ve made the investment, lay down some laws with your kids about lost items. For example, if they lose their school hat, they have to pay for a new one. You may be amazed how much longer they keep it for! The same with water bottles, goggles and all those repeatedly purchased items!” – Lucy Good.

About Lucy Good

Lucy is a mother and the founder of Beanstalk, an online space which empowers single mothers to rediscover their potential and rebuild their confidence online. Lucy has appeared on the Today show and has provided advice to mothers in the Take 5 magazine as well as regularly speaking on local radio. She is a blogger, podcaster and mentor, continually hunting down resources to help single mums.


3. Meal plan

“Life can get pretty hectic, particularly when your kids are back at school and you are back to work. It is surprising how much time and stress the family meals take up. So, if you are looking to ease this stress, think about meal planning. Make sure food for the week is purchased on the weekend, so you’re not dashing off to the shops during the week or paying more at a convenience store. You can also set aside time on Sunday to prepare two (or more!) meals so that you are just reheating on the night when they are required. To reduce waste (and therefore wasted money), plan to use leftovers – there may be some of each meal that you have had from Sunday to Wednesday left over, so on Thursday everyone can have a pot luck leftover meal.” – Gaby Chapman and Jen Petrovic.

About Gaby Chapman and Jen Petrovic

Gaby Chapman and Jen Petrovic are two mums living in Melbourne. Jen is a chef and Gaby is a copywriter. Together they founded Plan, Buy, Cook – an app designed to make planning, shopping and cooking meals easy.



4. Save on uniforms

“Consider second-hand uniforms, as many parents like to sell or pass along the uniforms their children don’t fit into anymore. Don’t assume they’ll be tired and scruffy looking! Often they are in great condition, or even as new, because children usually grow faster than uniforms can wear out. Keep an eye out at your own school uniform clothing shop as they may have second hand items for sale for as little as $5. You can pick and choose depending on the quality. Facebook groups for your local area are great too, where parents post uniform items for sale for local schools. Chatting with parents who have older children can help too, as sometimes they just pass them along even if you offer to pay – just ask the question! The key is to plan ahead – try looking and asking early as you know your child will grow and need a larger size before long.”- Jenny Atkinson.

About Jenny Atkinson

Jenny Atkinson is a mother of a child in high school, and the award-winning, bestselling author of ‘High School Rocks: Make Starting High School An Awesome Experience’. She is the founder and presenter of the Get Set For High School program, an online hub featuring a series of student workshops, parent talks and other information to ease students’ worries and prepare them to confidently transition to high school.


5. Minimise transport costs

“Consider purchasing a public transport card (such as a go card, Opal card or Myki), as prices are often around 30% less for these pre-purchased tickets. On top of that, often after a certain number of trips in a week, the subsequent one is free. Setting up an automatic direct debit can save you time, money and worry, knowing that your child has access to transport, and they don’t need to carry small change (which might instead be spent at the tuckshop).

Also, carpooling with friends can save on time and help minimise wear and tear on your car. Alternatively, active transport is free and great exercise for kids, ensuring that they adhere to transport laws and safety requirements.” – Megan Doyle.

About Megan Doyle

Megan Doyle

Megan Doyle is Group Executive of Canstar Blue and Group Strategy at Canstar and is a mum to three ever-growing children, a couple of whom have now finished school. She has been with Canstar for over five years, after experience in a number of different industries in strategy and marketing.




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