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Media Release

Parents brace for $1.7 billion back-to-school bill shock

Parents brace for back-to-school bill shock

Image source: Getty Images

New research from Commonwealth Bank reveals demands for latest technology driving school costs up 43 per cent in 2018

Parents of five to 17-year-olds could be in for a shock this year with back-to-school expenses setting Aussie families back $1.7 billion on top of school fees. For a typical Australian family, that’s a total cost of $829 spent each year on new text books, stationery, school shoes, uniforms and laptops – up 43 per cent on last year.

Despite more than half (56%) of Australian parents with kids aged 5-17 years old being worried about the cost of back-to-school purchases this year, almost half (49%) don’t have a plan or budget, with only a third (31%) regularly putting money aside for these new year expenses.  

Commonwealth Bank Executive General Manager, Sian Lewis, has encouraged families to set a budget early for expenses to avoid the back-to-school bill shock.

“The back-to-school bill can come as a shock to many parents, particularly after the expensive summer break. But there’s still time to get on top of your spending. Set a budget early and track your spending through your mobile banking app, opt for lower cost items in the sales or source second hand, and seek out hand-me-downs or borrowed items from friends and family.”

Laptops for all

A key driver of this price hike is the growing demand for technology, with 50 per cent of parents spending more on technology items, such as laptops and tablets, this year compared with 2017.

The cost of technology purchases per family totalled $269, coming in much higher than uniform purchases ($182), text books ($127), school shoes ($103) and stationary ($91).

The impact of technology costs isn’t just felt by families with older kids. One third (33%) of parents with younger kids (aged 5-7) have increased how much they will spend on technology this year, while almost two thirds (63%) of families with older kids said their technology spend would increase.

Aussies looking to take sting out of costs

Two-in-five Australian families are looking to take the sting out of back-to-school costs by paying in instalments (29%), with others buying second-hand (42%) or using hand-me-downs (60%). However, most (80 per cent) resort to the sales to save money on back-to-school purchases. 

Spending doesn’t stop at the school gates

There’s no financial respite for parents when kids go back to school, with families hit with a $662 million bill for extra-curricular activities each month, including $255 million spent on sports, followed by $174 million spent on trips/camps, $129 million on music/dance lessons and $103 million on tutoring.

Commonwealth Bank’s tips to avoid back-to-school bill shock:   

  • Set your back to school budget early and track your spending in real-time through your mobile banking app
  • Start your own sharing economy Facebook page and invite other school parents to post their second hand items
  • Cut costs by seeking out those summer sales bargains, buy second-hand or recycle items using hand-me-downs or borrowing from friends and family  
  • Plan out the costs of extra-curricular activities now to help you stay on top of your bills to make the year ahead easier


About the Commonwealth Bank Back to School Expenses Study

The Commonwealth Bank Back to School Expenses Study was undertaken by ACA Research in December 2017. Results are compiled from an online survey of 1,038 Australian parents of school aged children (K – Yr 12). Quotas were set by state, child gender and school year based on the latest population estimates sourced from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, to ensure a representative sample.

This article is intended to provide general information of an educational nature only. It does not have regard to the financial situation or needs of any reader and must not be relied upon as financial product advice.