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A new school year is here, which means parents have to find hundreds – or more likely thousands – of extra dollars to fund ongoing education costs for children.
Education costs have increased 64% in the past decade, more than twice the 26% rise in Australia’s overall inflation, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.1
Whether it’s school fees, uniforms, technology needs or extracurricular activities, costs are growing. Australian Scholarships Group estimated that educating a primary school child last year cost between $3,154 and $15,134, depending on whether they were in the public, Catholic or private school system.2
For a secondary student, the total cost estimate in the Australian Scholarships Group report ranged from $4,780 to $25,284 nationally. Education costs for a Queensland primary school student were $2,779-$12,552 and for a secondary student it was an estimated $4,195-$18,920.
Here are some ways to reduce the main schooling costs.
The biggest cash drain comes from fees, particularly in the private system. There aren’t too many ways to cut costs, but you can check if your school offers discount for paying the full year upfront.
Also examine whether scholarships may be available for academic, music or sport, as these can cover a portion of annual fees.
Moneysmart.gov.au3 says several states have government assistance programs to help parents cope with some school costs, and says there are other avenues of assistance that may help low income families.
Kids grow quickly, making clothing a regular expense. Apart from uniforms there’s footwear for fast-growing feet, plus sport clothing.
Moneysmart.gov.au3 says many school uniform shops have good quality secondhand uniforms at reduced prices, while parents of older children may give you some hand-me-downs.4
It’s not just the cost of the new iPad or laptop computer that’s become a necessity in many schools. Computing costs can include software, app purchases, internet access and data storage.
Planning ahead can help. If your child needs a computer next year, be on the lookout for specials several months in advance. It can save you hundreds of dollars.
Does three sports, two musical instruments and a private tutor sound familiar?
Consider doing a stock take of your child’s activities, and ask them what they do and don’t enjoy. You may be wasting money sending them to lessons they can’t stand but feel pressured to attend.
Many time-poor parents simply order what’s on their child’s recommended book and stationery list each year, forgetting to check whether their child already has the items from the year before. With textbook costs approaching $100 for some subjects in some schools, there can be big savings available for those who check what’s really needed.
Shop early, look for specials, and avoid buying the most expensive items when cheaper stuff will be fine.
Make some school lunches instead of sending cash with your kids each day, and potentially save $4000 a year. Lunch orders don’t have to be banned, simply reduced to a once-a-week luxury.
Public transport and school bus costs can add up, so check with other parents if there are carpooling options available, or start one yourself.
Always make sure your child has a valid concession card for public transport.
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1 Australian Bureau of Statistics Consumer Price Index September 2017. http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/detailspage/6401.0sep%202017?. Accessed 12 January 2018.
2 Australian Scholarships Group cost estimates for metropolitan schools for 2017. https://asg.com.au/doc/default-source/media-releases/planning-for-education-index-2017/asg_edcosts_schoolcosts_2017_nat_metro.pdf?sfvrsn=2. Accessed 12 January 2018.
3 Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC). https://www.moneysmart.gov.au. Accessed 17 January 2018.
4 Moneysmart.gov.au fact sheet about reducing back to school costs. https://www.moneysmart.gov.au/life-events-and-you/families/reducing-back-to-school-costs.
5 Advice fees may apply. Refer to the Financial Services Guide for more information.
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