Back to school buying tips

Photo: File.

The start of the new school year is an exciting time for both parents and students, but it can be a costly one, with parents having to fork out for uniforms, shoes, bags, stationery and school fees.

With a bit of forward planning, there are ways to help keep the costs down:

School uniforms

These are usually one of the biggest back-to-school expenses - especially if your child is starting at a new school and needs the whole kit. Buying second-hand is always a good option, and there is a very good Facebook page in the Bay of Plenty that is worth keeping an eye on: ‘School Uniforms New and 2nd Hand BOP Area’. Some schools, such as Tauranga Intermediate, have a second hand uniform sale at the end of the school year, while Trade Me and local op shops are also good places to look for second-hand uniform. Some uniform shops offer laybuy, and with some uniforms now being sold by The Warehouse, there is the option to use Christmas Club savings.


Expensive or cheap? It obviously depends on your budget, but with children growing out of their shoes very fast, it may not be worth spending lots of money on expensive shoes. Some schools require certain types of shoe, so you may not have much choice. Getting the right support is important for growing feet, and the professionals recommend looking for shoes with a flexible sole so the shoe moves and bends with your child’s foot, along with a heel tab to support the Achilles’ heel. Most shoe stores and department stores also have back-to-school sales.

School bags

This is another item that varies hugely in price depending on the label. It doesn’t pay to buy anything too big either. Experts recommend children don’t carry any more than 10 per cent of their body weight on their back. Straps should be padded and adjustable so the bag’s weight can be correctly distributed, and separate compartments are good for keeping stationery, sports clothes and food apart. Most large department stores stock schools bags of reasonable quality. Watch out for the sales to get the best bag for your buck.


Stationery varies hugely in quality and price, and some schools insist that you buy pre-made packs to ensure the correct items are purchased. Cheap pencils break and cheap glue sticks dry out quickly, so sometimes it’s better to spend a bit more. Again, stationery stores always have back-to-school sales and you can shop online and have it delivered to your door if you choose. Sometimes your kids don’t need all of the items on the school stationery list because they still have them from the previous year. Books don’t have to covered with expensive book coverings either.

School fees

You can opt not to pay these, but schools generally frown upon that and may withhold items such as school year books, or charge you for extracurricular activities. Many schools appreciate that the beginning of the school year is an expensive time. As such, they don’t always expect payment until either late in the first term, or the second term. Others also offer payment plans so you can stagger payment of the fees throughout the year.

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