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Public-school education in Australia is supposed to be free – but as anyone with kids soon finds out, there are a load of costs that come with a ‘free’ education.

From uniforms to textbooks, and stationery to sporting equipment, school comes with a range of extras that all need to be paid for. According to one source Australians will shell out a total of $11.4 billion dollars for state-school education-related costs in 2023. That’s an average of $4,212 per secondary student per year and $2,325 for primary school kids. So, let’s start by looking at what these costs are, and how we can pay for them.

Depending on your child’s age, school, and things like what extra-curricular activities they’re into, or if their lunch is made at home, here are some of the things that you’ll need to consider when budgeting for the school year(s) ahead:

  • Textbooks and stationery
  • Laptops and devices
  • New (and often larger/more expensive) clothes, uniforms and shoes
  • Excursions and school camps
  • Lunches, snacks and drinks
  • School-bags, lunch-boxes/drink-bottles, sporting-wear/equipment
  • Special education services or extra tuition
  • Transport to and from school
  • Voluntary contributions for un-funded school equipment or facilities

And these are just the costs specifically associated with being at school. As kids get older and start high-school they’ll often start socialising outside of school – things like going to the movies or shopping at the mall, stuff that usually costs more than the old ‘playdates at home’ they might’ve enjoyed as a pre-teen! This could be a good time to get your kids learning about money and how to save smartly.

So, how do we pay for all school-related expenses.

When back-to-school costs are looming it can be tempting to sign up for Buy-Now-Pay-Later or short-term ‘payday’ loans, but these come with their own risks. Putting yourself in debt to buy essentials, but then getting hit with high interest and hidden fees can end up putting you in an unmanageable spiral of debt. 

There are definitely hacks to pay less for education-related expenses, and with a bit of planning and research you can make some big savings. There are also subsidies and financial relief available for education costs – and we do recommend checking to see what you might be eligible for – but it’s usually not enough to cover all the expenses associated with getting through a child’s time at school.  

Fortunately, if you still find you’re struggling to come up with money for school expenses, Good Shepherd now offers genuine No Interest Loans (or ‘NILs’) to eligible applicants. NILs can be used for a range of necessities, including education expenses. Best of all, as well as incurring no-interest there are no hidden fees or penalties with Good Shepherd’s NILs. Read all about them here