Australian parents are expected to spend a massive $2 billionon back to school shopping for their kids, new research today from Commonwealth Bank has revealed. 

Families are planning to spend $435 on average, up 9 per cent from what they said they spent last year ($400).

Whether children are returning to school on campus or learning remotely, the majority of parents (65 per cent) said they find it difficult to afford all the school supplies needed for their kids.

Unsurprisingly, parents with multiple children said they would need to spend more in order to ready their kids for school. Families with three or more children expect to fork out an average of $880 to cover all the expenses. 

CBA’s General Manager, Caleb Reeves said: “The back to school period signals a milestone for both parents and kids as a fresh start for the new year.

“It is also a time when people can feel financially overwhelmed by all of the spending they have done already over the holiday period – adding to their overall financial strain. So it’s important to identify manageable ways to pay for necessary back to school items.”

According to the CBA study, most shoppers (63 per cent) have so many items to purchase that they find it hard to know which are really necessary, while 65 per cent struggle to afford everything they need.

Payment trends

Around three in five (58 per cent) who are responsible for buying back to school supplies, said they wish they could spread out these payments.

The same proportion (58 per cent) also said they plan to purchase back to school items via buy now, pay later or with a credit card.

The popularity of buy now, pay later to manage expenses continues to grow, with over 150,000 customers and 1.5 million transactions on CBA’s own buy now, pay later product, StepPay, since its launch in August.

Technology blowing out the budget

The most expensive item on the shopping list for parents is new technology, with just under a quarter (22 per cent) planning to purchase new technology including laptops for their kids ahead of the school year, costing an average of $642.

The majority of parents (74 per cent) said their children would also need new uniform items that are expected to cost $188, while reading materials such as textbooks may also set families back almost $200. 

Other common purchases that parents will be shopping for include:

  • School shoes - $115
  • Stationery - $98
  • School bags - $74
  • Lunch boxes and water bottles - $41

Mr Reeves said: “Thankfully, there are a lot of free tools and resources both online and in your banking app that can help to make these times more manageable, whether it’s tracking spend, saving or getting offers and rewards to save on everyday shopping. So it’s worthwhile checking your banking app before you make a purchase.”

According to the CBA study, the majority of parents (80 per cent) are also hoping to make some savings by making purchases when they’re on sale.

CommBank’s tips for the back to school period:

  • Find out what your kids need brand new, and which items can be reused, bought second hand or borrowed.
  • Take advantage of sales and check out shopping offers in your banking app from CommBank Rewards, Little Birdie and the Cheddar app. 
  • Make the payments more manageable by spreading them out with StepPay.
  • Use Spend Tracker in the CommBank app to keep on top of your spending.

Notes to editors

  • 118,205,855 adults aged 18-74 years of age, ABS Population June 2020
  • Fieldwork was conducted between 1st December – 8th December 2021, amongst a sample of n=1,005 nationally representative respondents with quotas set on age, gender and location
  • 25.57% of Aussies 18-74 yrs being parents of school aged child(ren) and planning on spending on back to school items. Of these people, the average spend being $435.05