School costs: how to save

The cost of getting kids kitted out and through the school gate on the first day back after summer can be crippling – particularly as it comes straight after Christmas and the summer break. So parents may not want to hear the latest ASG Planning for Education Index figures, which calculates that for a child born in 2015, 13 years of private school education in New Zealand is estimated to cost $323,814. State integrated schooling could cost up to $107,962, almost a third of the cost of private education, with state education costing up to $37,676.

On the plus side,  State education in New Zealand is more than 40% cheaper than in Australia, costing families about $37,676 for a 13-year education, in comparison to $67,894 across the Tasman.

ASG Education Programmes CEO John Velegrinis said that school fees are only one component of total education costs.

“There is a myriad of other costs involved including transport, uniforms and school books, excursions – which can create financial headaches if they’re not planned for,” he observed.

So – what are some ways of keeping costs down? Here are a few easy strategies:

  • Reuse, recycle. It goes without saying that anything you can reuse from the year before will save you money. Pull out all the school clothes and shoes and check what can be worn again this year. Ditto for sports equipment and stationary. Reuse whatever you can.
  • Visit the school clothing shop. Many schools have a second hand uniform store and the items can cost a fraction of the brand new price. Shorts, skirts, dresses and jumpers – buying second hand in good condition can save hundreds of dollars.
  • Try to source extra-curricular stuff cheaper. Between music, sports and other extra-curricular activities, many kids have busy schedules. So try to source as much of their extra-curricular “stuff” as cheaply as possible as well. A “wanting to buy” notice on the school notice board, plus some online surfing is worth doing.
  • Don’t forget the smalls. Underwear and socks, lunchboxes and hairbands – having a list of all the different categories of things that need to be bought helps you to focus, prioritise and then save!
  • Label everything! Kids can find it challenging to keep track of all their belongings; name labels on as many of their possessions as possible reduces the risk of something being lost forever.

If you need extra motivation to cut back-to-school costs, just think about a potential alternative: putting it all on your credit card. At current average credit card interest rates of around 18.7%, putting the back-to-school costs on the plastic and never quite getting around to paying them off means that you could end up paying hundreds of dollars in interest costs between now and the next Christmas holidays. That’s money that’s better off in your pocket.

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