Back to School Costs: School Supplies, Uniform Costs Skyrocket

The most expensive part of education is tuition. However, many Aussies are coming to terms with the extra school costs, including stationery and uniform costs that they are hit with, especially at this time of year as they prepare to send the kids back to school.

According to Finder, Australian households are expected to spend a staggering $3.5 billion nationwide on school supplies alone. This doesn’t include tuition but does include things like stationary, books and uniforms. 

school fees - cost of education in Australia in 2023
Source: Bigstock

On average, parents can expect to pay:

  • $684 for primary school students and $1,132 for high school kids on school supplies. This includes books, stationery, uniforms and electronic devices. 
  • The most expensive item on this list is uniforms which cost around $245 for primary students and $469 for secondary students.
  • Electronic devices are also up there, costing around $250 per child. 

Factor in the cost of tuition and the average is $2,547 for primary students and $4,793 for secondary students. However, many families will be faced with MUCH higher fees than this, especially if their child attends private school.

If you’re looking at a private school, in Sydney in particular, expect $27,000 per year, or, an incredible $357,931 per child over 13 years. See the full list of school fee costs across Australia. 

The hidden school costs Aussie parents face

Tuition is something I expect. All three of my children attend private schools and I am well aware that I need to budget around $6,000 per year for these fees. But the school supplies and additional costs were something I wasn’t expecting. 

Here are a few things that caught me off guard. Keep in mind these costs are based on Catholic schools in Queensland and every school and state will vary.

Uniform costs 

Expect around $40 per piece of clothing (brand new). Many private schools also have sports and formal uniforms so you need to purchase more than just one set. Formal hats will also set you back around $50-$80. You can easily expect to pay around $600 on uniforms alone, especially for high school students. 

mum centralTOP TIP: I absolutely 100% recommend shopping second-hand for school uniforms. Your local Facebook marketplace is a good place to start as are Pre-Loved Uniform groups in your area.  Most schools also have a secondhand uniform shop which can save you so much. Uniforms second-hand generally start around $5 per article of clothing. 


Expect around $80 for a decent backpack. My kids require a specific backpack that sets me back $75 per bag, but it is guaranteed to last them throughout the primary/secondary journey. So, for 7 years of primary school, an $80 backpack only equates to around $12 a year. Yes, you can buy $12 backpacks at Kmart but they most likely won’t last more than one year. 


The death of me. Especially with a 13-year-old boy whose feet won’t stop expanding. Be sure to check if the school has any formalities about shoes. Many will require black shoes as well as an additional pair for sports. Most kids will need to purchase two new pairs of school shoes once or twice a year. At around $100 a pair, you can see how this adds up. 


 My son’s school provides the kids with a computer but many schools don’t. You can get a decent everyday school computer for around $400. Or you can go for a MacBook which is around $1400 brand new. 


Here’s a fun cost I HAD no idea about. If your child takes public transport to school (bus, train, ferry), you may be required to pay for it. My son’s bus fee is $13 per week. That’s $520 a year which seems insane, but driving him there and back daily would also cost a pretty penny in fuel. 

mum centralTOP TIP: If your child does take public transport, have a look at the School Transport Assistance Scheme where you may be eligible for money back. The application process takes some time but it might be worth it in the long run. 


Representative Sport

Watching our kids excel in school sports is such an amazing thing but if they qualify for representative school sports at the state and national level, there’s a whole new ball game of expenses including representative uniforms, outerwear (the JACKETS are a must for any sporty kid) plus travel costs (flights, hotel, etc). This can be an unexpected cost for many families and, unfortunately, it’s one of the reasons many kids who do qualify for representative sport cannot go ahead with it. 

Camp and field trips 

Always check to see if these are included in your tuition fees. Expect any outing to cost around $150 for the day per child. A three-day camp will generally be around $400 for each child. 

Fundraising Events

 My daughters’ school LOVES to fundraise which is awesome. Gold coin donations are pretty much a weekly thing but there are also other bigger fundraisers like famines and colour runs where children need “sponsorships”. The Lazy Mum in me tends to just send them to school with a $50 note each and call it a fundraising day, but the Frugal Mum suggests getting your child to write a bit of a speech and recite it to the neighbours, asking for sponsorships. This is a great lesson in public speaking and confidence building too.  

Can you think of any other hidden costs you weren’t expecting back to school? Be sure to also check out our guide to the best back-to-school products of 2024 including discounts on backpacks, labels, water bottles and more. 


Avatar of Jenna Galley

Born and raised in Canada, Jenna now lives in Far North Queensland with her tribe. When the mum-of-three is not writing, you can find her floating in the pool, watching princess movies, frolicking on the beach, bouncing her baby to sleep or nagging her older kids to put on their pants.

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