• Advice

How to Reduce School Costs

School costs

From 2007 to 2017, the cost of a child’s education (state schooling) rose by 15%, proving that there certainly isn’t any such thing as a free education in this day and age. Parents of children born in 2019 can expect to pay at least $40,000 for their education, placing extra pressure on already-challenged household budgets.

The many and varied costs of schooling include school and PE uniforms, text books and stationary, school and sports trips, extra tuition, extra-curricular activity costs, and technology device costs in particular (such as netbooks and laptops) all contribute to the squeeze on family budgets.

One way to start gaining ground in the challenge to prepare for the future is to consider using a dedicated education savings provider to plan for the future. There are providers who will, much like Superannuation providers, invest your savings in funds to provide a return for when you need to use the money. For 25 years ASG (Australian Scholarships Group) provided this service for New Zealanders but recently has pulled out of NZ and are not taking new applications.

Given that there is a surprising lack of similar providers in New Zealand, parents are left with no option but to take a DIY approach to achieve an equivalent level of savings. This requires a more disciplined savings habit with a plan and commitment to putting aside realistic and regular small sums of money.

Besides committing to regular personal savings, here are some top tips to help reduce the financial pressure of schooling:

  1. See if other parents at your child’s school have started Facebook groups. Often these are used to let people know that there are uniforms for sale when their children have outgrown them. You can usually get a bargain since parents generally don’t want to be seen to be asking too much for second-hand clothing, and will also often just give away things to the ‘first in’.
  2. Use automatic payments through your online banking to make small regular payments across the whole school year to cover school fees, sports fees, and one-off things such as camp fees.
  3. Ask other tech-savvy parents about the ‘required devices’. Parents often unnecessarily buy devices that cost a lot more than cheaper alternatives that meet the minimum requirements (often arbitrary and misleading) and are just as good for the work needed to be done. Also, school kids have an incredible knack of breaking devices, the cheaper the initial outlay, the less pain in replacement costs.
  4. Fundraising can be done for sports trips and school events. There’s the usual favourites: sausage sizzles and chocolate sales, but there is no end of alternative ideas, with excellent websites listing many ‘outside-the-box’ ideas for fundraising including Fundraising Ideas NZ  and the Eventbrite blog.
  5. Explore your options to get help – there is usually more available than you realise. The Salvation Army provides financial support for low-income families specifically for ‘back-to-school bills, as does the City Mission Christchurch, J R McKenzie Youth Education Fund, Make it Happen Christchurch, Variety and Work and Income, who may offer a recoverable assistance payment or an advance benefit payment to help cover the cost of school uniforms and stationery.
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