Aussie mum reveals brutal financial cost of sending kids back to school

An Aussie mum has revealed the shocking financial squeeze of getting her kids ready for school as one major bank warns thousands of no-interest loans will be issued to cover education expenses alone in the coming month.

Factoring in the cost of her daughter’s new uniform, along with essentials like books and pens and even devices needed for learning in the classroom, Belinda* says the cost of sending just one child to school has ballooned out to more than $1100.

That figure doesn’t even factor in costs for events like excursions and camps, which can pop up throughout the year.

The Victorian mum of four, who has two children at primary and two at secondary school, said the back-to-school season was incredibly tough at the end of the year, as fees and book lists arrive close to Christmas.

It’s especially harsher when the bills add up to more than $4000 for all of her children.

“I’m a very good planner and organiser, I start planning about June (for school),” Belinda told NCA NewsWire.

“But you can’t plan for uniforms or book lists for June because they have probably grown out of their uniforms by December.

“It can be very stressful if you do not have the resources to get the things you need for them.”

Belinda said other families like hers were also “sprung” with new costs, such as devices like iPads and computers needed for learning in the classroom, that left many struggling just to make ends meet.

The Covid-19 pandemic turbocharged many of these fees, she said.

“During the period of Covid the kids had to do schooling from home at one stage, so I had to go out and get more computers … I had four kids at home, doing homeschooling,” she said.

“And then you have to have the internet running all the time, the heating.

“All these things just went through the roof for us.

“It’s got a lot worse; things are 10 times more expensive now, and trying to find the money for these things is becoming harder and harder.”

Belinda’s story comes as new financial data from NAB reveals more than $640,000 of no-interest loans (NILs) are expected to be issued by the bank over February for education expenses.

The total amount of money for education loans, which can be used to pay for uniforms, books, stationery and computers, has grown by more than 73 per cent between 2018 and 2023.

But that figure has doubled since the Covid-19 pandemic.

NAB has provided more than 22,000 Australians with $28m in NILs since 2018.

The bank’s data reveals 13.8 per cent were for education-related expenses, while demand for education expenses peaked in February, averaging $1237 per loan.

Belinda said NILs were a “godsend” for her family to cover the rising school costs, especially in light of the cost-of-living crisis hitting so many Aussies.

“I live at the supermarket, you can imagine with four kids,” she said.

“I’m spending more at the supermarket than I ever have in my lifetime. When I have to organise for school to go back, it’s a huge amount of stress on my shoulders.

“With the NILs loans we’ve had all these years, they’ve taken a big burden off me to be able to afford to pay everything for the children and then have that extra money on the side to be able to focus on the things I need to do during the year as well.”

New research from the Australian Retailers Association (ARA), in partnership with Roy Morgan, has also revealed that Aussie parents are expecting to spend $2.5bn on their kids this school season.

That’s an average of $512 spent on each child on back-to-school-related merchandise.

The ARA’s report found of the those parents surveyed, 44 per cent said they would be spending more than last year.

About 14 per cent surveyed said they planned to spend more than $1000, while 10 per cent planned on spending less than $100 this year.

ARA chief executive Paul Zahra said retailers hoped the somewhat necessary spending on school supplies would build momentum for a profitable 2024.

“The back-to-school period is where we see retail trade ramp back up, as many Australians return from their holidays and prepare their kids for the school year,” he said.

*Last name withheld

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