Back-to-school supplies definitely add up. For many parents, the overall cost of stationery, text books, and uniforms reaches several hundred dollars per child; when digital devices like iPads and laptops enter the equation, those costs can reach thousands. And that's not counting the school fees.
Scary, isn't it?
The good news is that, with a bit of organisation, and a willingness to jump on the hottest back-to-school sales in Australia when they launch, it is actually possible to save BIG when it comes to all that back-to-school gear.
Shop the Best Back-to-School Sales
From Boxing Day right throughout January, back-to-school sales are widespread. The problem with the timing of these sales is that many of us are holidaying and trying to take a breather after a very long year! That's why it pays to know exactly what sales you need to get to, and when. That way you can get back to the beach faster.
In early January, school shoe sales are found at most major stores.
The biggest savings are usually found at Betts, where Airflex leather school shoes are reduced by 40% for several weeks from late December through to January. Prices start at $19.99 after the discount.
Other sales include 20% off school shoes at Clarks, Myer, David Jones, Athlete's Foot, Shoes & Sox, and Williams; all of these kick off from early January.
For possibly the cheapest leather school shoes in the country, make sure you keep an eye on the Aldi Back-to-School Special Buys from around the 9th of January each year - you can pick up a pair for $14.99 (if you can get through the crowds, that is!).
The Big W back-to-school catalogue sale traditionally runs from early to mid-January, and the stationery is some of the cheapest around. Expect to find notebooks from $0.15, book covers for $1, pencil cases for $0.50, and big brands like Crayola and Faber-Castell heavily reduced.
The Target back-to-school sale also runs from early to mid-January, and it's usually the time to score 20% off popular stationery brands, and 30% off exercise books.
For stationery with extra fun factor, keep an eye on Smiggle from Boxing Day and up until mid-January. Percentage-off sale deals get better and better throughout early January in an effort to clear out the previous year's lines, and you can save up to 60% off full prices.
Lunchboxes & Drink Bottles:
When it comes to lunchboxes and drink bottles, the Woolworths back-to-school sale offers are definitely worth checking out. You can score up to 50% off brands like Sistema and Decor in the weeks leading up to term one.
At its back-to-school sale in early January, Big W has BPA-free drink bottles as low as $1, and entire lunch packs (with lunchbox) for $8.
Aldi's zip-around, two-tiered lunch bags are available in the January Special Buys, and at just $7.99, it's worth grabbing an extra one for down the track.
For popular brands like Penny Scallan, Trunki, Crocodile Creek and LEGO (yes, LEGO makes lunchboxes!), have a peek at the offerings on Catch. At any time of the year, it's very possible to find impressive reductions on adorable lunchbags and boxes, including popular licenses like Paw Patrol and Spider-Man.
Buy Quality School Shoes
Premium school shoes do cost more than bargain department-store varieties, but in most cases, they will see kids through a better part of the year than cheap options, and in the long run, they can actually save you money. (Plus, if kids are aware of the value of an item, they may be more inclined to look after it a little better.)
Top brands for quality school shoes include Clarks, Airflex by Betts, Roc and Grosby shoes. Take a look at the best styles of school shoes from the top brands, and what features they boast in our complete guide.
Use the Officeworks School List Service
Did you know that Officeworks will pick and pack your school stationery list for you? Better still, the service doesn't cost anything, you only pay for your supplies. This is incredibly handy for time-poor parents, or those families who are still holidaying right up until school starts.
It can even save you cash.
If you find an identical stocked item on the list than is cheaper than what Officeworks charges, they beat it by 20%, and given how incredibly cheap stationery items are at stores like Big W, Target and Kmart, it's quite possible to match prices and shave a little extra off those stationery lists.
To use the service:
- Head to Officeworks online (or drop off your list in-store)
- Enter your child's name, year level and school
- Upload your school list (ensuring to cross out anything you don't want or need, like yet another eraser!
- Choose your preferred colour scheme
- Select your substitution choices, such as whether you want a cheaper item if one is available
Don't Buy More Uniforms Than Kids Need
It can be very easy to get caught up in back-to-school fever and buy more items than kids actually need, and this is especially the case when it comes to uniforms. With the average price of a school-specific summer dresses or slacks around $45 each, it goes without saying that you don't want to buy more than is necessary, particularly with kids growing so fast.
Usually two summer and two winter sets is enough, this way you've got a set ready when the other is being washed.
Also keep in mind that most school uniforms these days are a poly/cotton blend, and they dry fast - even in winter. So save the cash on buying more, and opt for more frequent washing instead.
Remember that school uniforms can be handed down to younger siblings. Even if you have to store items for a few years, it's well worth it, and can save you hundreds in the long run.
Use Name Labels For Everything
All parents of school-aged kids have been there: you fork out more than you want on an item your child has to have, only to find it has "disappeared" within weeks, and needs to be replaced. Like immediately.
Commonly misplaced items include school hats (can't even tell you how many of those I've had to replace), drink bottles and other small accessories like umbrellas, scarves, and gloves. Replacements are not only costly, but can be stressful for busy parents who have to find the time re-purchase them.
By appropriately labelling everything, you're pretty likely to avoid items disappearing for good, plus the cost of a replacement. Most items lost at school will wind up in lost property, and as long as it's named, you stand a much better chance of finding those items that went walkabout.
If you'd prefer to make your own, it might be worth investing in a Dymo Letra Tag Labeller. However, bear in mind that while the Dymo seems inexpensive at around $23 a unit, you need different tape packs for different purposes, and at $12 a pack, they can add up.
Buy Generic Where Possible
Have you noticed that the prices at your school's uniform shop are a little steep? It's often hard to save on items that are custom-made for the school, like blazers and other major uniform pieces (unless you pick up second-hand items), but there is no reason to overpay for simple, generic items.
Take a look at how cheap essentials can be elsewhere:
- School socks - $4 for 4PK White Crew Socks at Big W
- School Hair ties - $4 for 10PK at Big W
- School Scrunchies - $2.99 for 6PK at Aldi (January only)
- School Scarves - $4 at Best & less
- School Gloves - $4 at Best & Less
- Wide-Brim School Hats - $10 at Best & Less
- School Tights - $6 at Best & Less
If your child attends a school that has uniform pieces without the school logo on them (or permits kids to wear a generic version), you can save even more. Kmart, Big W, Best & less and Target all sell generic, one-colour uniform pieces - and they're cheap!
- Gingham School Dresses - $10 at Kmart
- School Skorts - $8 at Big W
- School Track Pant - $5.50 at Big W
- School Shorts - $3.50 at Kmart
- School Polos - $4 for 2PK at Big W
- School Netball Skirt - $15 at Best & Less
- Basketball Shorts - $8 at Target
Check For Coupon Codes at Major Stores
Coupon codes (also called "promo codes") are an excellent and easy way to wipe a chunk off a purchase, and if there is a code in play at the store you need to shop at, you certainly don't want to miss it.
eBay is particularly great when it comes to deals, and almost always has a coupon code running for a category or seller, and when it comes to electronic gear, like laptops and tablets, a coupon code can make a huge difference to your overall cost.
Head over to our Coupon Page to check for codes at loads of different online stores in Australia. They could help save you cash off a purchase, score you free shipping - or both!