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Back-to-school costs: Aussie families to fork out $11.4 billion


Parents are bracing for a back-to-school budget bust, according to new research by Finder.

Finder crunched the numbers on school expenses in 2023 and found that school supplies alone are expected to cost families a whopping $2.6 billion for the year ahead.

A fresh set of school supplies – complete with textbooks, stationery and a uniform – will set parents back an average of $571 for primary school children and $771 for secondary students.

When other costs – such as tuition fees, uniforms, technology, camps, excursions, sporting equipment, musical equipment and transport costs – are taken into account, this jumps to a national spend of $11.4 billion.

That's $2,325 for each primary school child and $4,212 for secondary students on average.

According to Finder's Parenting Report 2022, which surveyed 1,033 Aussie parents of children under 12, 17% of Aussie parents are contemplating moving their child from a private school to a public school to reduce their expenses.

A further 10% of families have already made the switch to a public school as living costs skyrocket.

Sarah Megginson, a mother of three and money expert at Finder, said the back-to-school costs are significant.

"With the cost of living continuing to skyrocket, many parents will struggle to afford the necessary supplies, clothing and technology for their children.

"Some families are forced to make difficult decisions about which supplies to buy and which to go without.

"Many will reach breaking point as rising fuel and food costs, Christmas debt hangover and back-to-school costs collide."

Tuition fees and voluntary school contributions tend to be the biggest expense, costing parents on average anywhere between $204 for a public primary school to $10,662 for an independent secondary school, adding up to a national spend of $3.4 billion.

Other hidden expenses include camps, costing primary students $312 per year and secondary students $443 per year on average, and transport to and from school, costing $512 and $610 respectively.

"If you know about a $300 camp or a $500 trip to Canberra in advance, you can start putting away a small amount of money each week to help pay for it well before the invoice is due.

"To help ease the overall financial burden, talk to your school about potential payment plans. My kids go to a public school and we pay $250–$300 per year, per student for school supplies. We have the option to pay this in a lump sum or pay it off in instalments over time," Megginson said.

Devices like laptops and tablets, while not used in all schools, also come at a steep price.

Finder research found that 30% of students are required to have a device.

Those parents can expect to pay $496 per year on devices in primary school, and $787 in secondary school, according to research from the Futurity Investment Group.

Megginson said there are ways families can trim the back-to-school bill.

"Start shopping early and look out for back-to-school sales. This can save you hundreds of dollars over the year, especially on pricey items like laptops.

"Savvy families could save money by sourcing second-hand items, and you may be able to borrow or rent devices from the school.

"Look for second-hand uniforms at the uniform shop, and when school begins, ask about the planned excursions and camps coming up for the year ahead," Megginson said.

ExpenseAverage primary school spendAverage secondary school spendNational spend
Fee/voluntary contribution$626$1,826$3.4 billion
School supplies$571$771$2.6 billion
Camps$312$443$1.4 billion
Excursions$131$286$0.7 billion
Sport equipment$172$276$0.8 billion
Transport$512$610$2.2 billion
Total$2,325$4,212$11.4 billion
Source: Finder, ACARA, Futurity Investment Group


  • Finder used pricing data from Kmart, Officeworks and The Athlete's Foot to calculate the average annual cost of back-to-school items for primary and secondary school students.
  • Analysis assumes some items (e.g. notebooks and pens) are purchased annually, while others are purchased less frequently (e.g. uniforms).
  • Data on tuition and the cost of uniforms, textbooks and other equipment was sourced from ACARA and the Futurity Investment Group.
  • Demographic data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics were used to calculate aggregate spending figures.

For more information, including how to save on back-to-school costs, visit Finder's back-to-school costs 2023 page.

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