Local parents are getting savvy to save on essentials.
With the end of holidays fast approaching, it can be an expensive time, with parents across the region bracing themselves for a spending splurge on uniforms and shoes, stationary, laptops and other items.
While a large number of parents often provide some school supplies and equipment as Christmas presents, one third will conduct their back to school shops over the coming fortnight.
Charlie Rixon is enjoying the last weeks of school holidays before he takes the big step into kindergarten. His mum, Cassie Jones said getting ready for school can be more expensive than people think.
Charlie will start his schooling in early February at Cudgegong Valley Public School (CVPS) in Mudgee.
"It's expensive. They give you the sheet and say this is - here's all the uniforms and you say 'wow' because kids are messy so you can't just have one or two shirts, particularly with boys, they just get in the dirt, they get in the mud," she said.
Cassie said sizing can be an issue, especially when your child is still growing rapidly.
"You look at it and think you're going to have to buy a few spares and it was quite interesting with the sizing. Charlie is is a little bit smaller than most - so it's hard to find the second hand ones in that size. We ended up buying the smaller size and it'll probably only last for a year, but that's just the summer uniform."
Buying uniforms for all seasons with spares can add up, but if you're savvy there are savings to be had.
"We ended up going to Best and Less and getting a few pairs of spare bottle green shorts. We got his hat and shirts from the school shop but the shorts were like $10-15 cheaper, which really adds up when you're buying 5 pairs of shorts," Cassie said.
"We have some friends of ours who've got kids who have gone through the school who have donated some stuff to us. I have a friend lined up, her child starts next year and she said to me 'right, pass it down'. She's put her hand up first."
"We did pick up a couple of pieces from the school's second hand shop too. It is great, they're only $5 a piece which really helps out but the smaller sizes for kindy seem to be really, really rare. So if you can find size 4s and 6s it's like winning the lottery."
On top of the second hand rack at the school uniform shop and hand-me-downs from friends, there is another option available for parents looking to save some coin.
A Facebook page called 'Mudgee and Surrounds School Uniforms', which was created in 2015 by locals Yasmin Crockett and Leish Marshall lets parents around the region swap and share their unused school uniforms, and with more than 1300 members the page is quite active in the lead up to term one.
The smaller sizes for kindy seem to be really, really rare. So if you can find size 4s and 6s it's like winning the lottery.Cassie Jones
"We started this page around five years ago because there was no dedicated second hand school uniforms page in Mudgee. I think it's built more momentum the last six months," Yasmin said.
"I buy second hand where I can simply because it's a huge cost saver. The kids don't know the difference and a new wool jumper for winter costs $90 and the first thing they lose is the new wool jumper. [I] can pick up [a] second hand for around $30."
"It's really quite good, it's for all the schools. Parents have been jumping on there asking about book lists and saying 'I need this size' and that kind of thing which is really handy because it can really add up," Cassie said of the page.
Other mothers chimed in with their cost saving tips.
Chloe Sams said she uses a program called 'Savers Plus' and shops at the We Care Community shop located at Byron Place in Mudgee. "They often have new stuff for only a few dollars and sometimes have uniforms," Chloe said.
"I did the savers plus program. You have to do a money wise course and deposit $50 into an account each month for the year and at the end of the year they match your savings up to $500. The course was really good and I learnt some great saving tips from it."
Annalise Peters said she bakes and freezes in bulk homemade snacks to save money and time through the week. Liz Halbisch also pointed out that the Mudgee Public School uniform shop "has January specials to help with back to school and all the proceeds go back into school improvements," she said.
On the retail side, Smiggle Manager, Jasmine Simpson, said that while they experienced strong sales leading up to Christmas, the last two weeks were even busier.
"We have been busy since the start of December but now we are just flat out," she said.
"People are realising that school returns in a couple of weeks and are rushing to have everything ready to back.
"Parents spend on average $45 to $50 in store on bags, lunchboxes and Back to School sets but there is still a lot more that students need."
To know what kind of costs parents may face, BIG W have launched their annual 'Back to School' report which provides families an insight into back to school shopping behaviours and spending habits.
Key findings from the report include:
- A total spend per child of $970, an increase of 12 per cent from last year
- An average of $592 will be spent on school supplies such as uniforms, stationery, bags and lunchboxes, up from $538
- 73 per cent of parents said value for money was the most important factor when shopping
- Quality of products was a major concern for 53% pf parents
This years report also highlighted the increasing costs of technology and sports within schools with parents expecting to spend on average:
- $284 per child on tech items, an increase of 17 per cent
- $94 per child on sports gear, an increase of 12 per cent
Head of Everyday and Home at BIG W, Mitch Armitt, said following what was a difficult 2020, many families were feeling pressure to manage their budgets.
"We know that household budgets still remain tight, which is why we've been working hard to bring families great value with quality items from just $1," he said.
In 2020, one in three families had to buy more technology products, while 20 per cent had to purchase furniture.