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How to budget for school (with a dose of reality)

Young schoolgirl holding a money box in front of a chalkboard2016 is here! It feels like just minutes ago that the school year finished. We don’t have many more weeks free from school drop off and pick ups, making school lunches and checking bags for forgotten notes and uneaten food. It’s nearly time to sit down and start working through the new school year to-do list. Trips to the uniform shop, stationary purchasing and finding the money to cover the start of school year expenses.

It’s time to plan and time to budget. Here’s some tips to help you get yourself ready for the new school year and ensure you are well prepared for the expenses that will hit you through the school year.

School expenses

School uniforms

For first timers, uniform costs vary and kids grow. It can be worth just buying for summer first up, and saving the winter uniform for second term just before the kids will need it. For kids already at school, before you go shopping sort through their uniforms and work out what needs replacing or updating. Keep your eye out for the shoe sales, with three kids buying school shoes adds up!

School camps

It’s worth checking in with your school (if you don’t already know) if they are having a camp for your child’s school year. From experience, the camps tend to cost between $300 and $500 depending on age, location and length. Most schools could give you an indication before the school year starts.


This can be tricky. This will depend on the school and the child’s year level. Again you could ask the school for an indication of how much excursions cost the previous year and choose a figure slightly higher to put in your budget. In the 2015 school year, for three kids our excursion costs totalled approx. $500.

School sports

This will differ between public and private schools. In public schools a large portion of the cost associated is for transport. In 2015 the cost for kids to attend PSSA (Primary School Sports Association) was between $60 and $80 per term for each child. In private schools the costs vary significantly, with children often requiring a different uniform for each sport.

Before and after school care

These costs are payable directly to the provider for your primary school. If your child is registered for the Child Care Rebate, you will need to provide the details and then pay the gap. Make sure you are aware of your cap and the costs. Often breakfast is included with Before School Care and afternoon tea with After School Care.

Private school fees and levies

Fees and any associated levies as charged by the school as well as text books, stationary items and a device if required.

Public school extra costs

Factor in the cost of text books and stationary items, voluntary donations to the schools P&C, other donations that may include libraries etc. Also some schools require payment for the use of technology or for your child to bring a device.

Extracurricular activities expenses

This is a bit like the chicken and the egg. Do you decide what suits your child’s abilities and will meet their development needs and then work out how much that will cost? Or do you work out your budget and then decide what activities fit in with that.

How many kids do you have? If you encourage your eldest child to do three activities, remember as your younger ones grow they will also want to do three activities. Think of the cost and the time involved before committing!

Some activities are more costly than others, here’s a broad outline of some of the popular activities.

  • Private music lessons start around $30 per 30 minutes and increase from there.
  • Sports tend to run for a season, summer or winter, and the cost including uniforms will start around $200 and increase as the child gets older.
  • Group dancing and singing lessons tend to start around $150 per term and can be dependent on the location, number of children in the class and length of the lessons.
  • Swimming can be between $150 and $200 per term for group lessons and approx. $500 for private lessons.

About Jen Bakker

Jen’s working background is in financial services. As the eldest of five children she's used to sharing her knowledge! Having three kids of her own she likes to combine her money knowledge with her love of writing. ...

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