Sending your child to school - what's the cost?
14/12/2017 Tammy McLaren, Trust Accountant
Deciding where to send your child to school can be a daunting task, especially for first time parents. Your child is entirely affected by your decision, the pressure is on – you’ve got to make the right choice!
Out of all the things to consider, the most important is whether you think your child will be happy at that school. Let’s face it – an unhappy child is the last thing you want, and they aren’t going to thrive in any kind of learning environment feeling that way.
As well as your child’s wellbeing, finances are a massive factor to consider. We all want the best for our children, but how much will it cost?
There’s more than meets the eye when you’re considering the price of sending your child off into the big, scary world of education. The first thing to get your head around? School fees. Fees can vary from a few hundred to several thousand dollars per year, but there are additional factors to consider on top of just the annual fee:
- Is there an added enrolment fee to be paid up front?
- Do the fees stay the same throughout primary school (allowing for CPI increases), or do they scale up each year as your child progresses through their school years?
- Is there a discounted fee per child – when more than one of your children attends the school?
- Are there any compulsory fees or levies – such as IT levies, building or maintenance levies?
Getting your hands on a list of items your child will need in the classroom is a very wise move. You’ll know exactly what you need to buy, allowing you to budget and prevent any unwanted surprises. Some schools have very specific stationery requirements; you might need to buy specific pencils or maybe you’ll be required to purchase a schoolbag branded with the school emblem.
On top of the stationery is technology. Are you obliged to purchase an iPad or tablet for your child? Or are they provided by the school? Sometimes you’re required to supply your child with an iPad as early as prep – including some public schools! If you’re in this position, check to see if the school offers any kind of bulk buying arrangement as that’ll save you some cash.
Many school policies dictate the entire uniform be purchased through their own uniform shop – right down to your child’s socks! If you’re able to purchase the basics from retail stores such as Kmart or Big W, this will save you a considerable amount of money. Grab a copy of their uniform pricing list as it is well worth calculating the cost of fitting your child out for school. Most schools will require their students to have a summer, winter and sports uniform. By the time you add in a hat, jacket and school shoes, it’s pricey!
Also remember that your child is growing and the uniform will need replacing as they get older. It’s an ongoing expense and certainly one not to overlook. To help save some money, ask if the school or parents association operates a swap and sell – second hand uniforms can get you through the early years while your child is still growing.
Choosing a school nearby that you and your child could walk or bike to will obviously save you money in terms of transport costs. But if your only options are public transport, driving or a school bus run by a private company, you’ll need to figure out the cost and add that to your consideration.
Excursions and camps are another factor to add to the pile. Most schools consider these an additional expense on a pay-as-you-go basis. Every so often there are schools that include these as part of their curriculum and therefore part of their annual fees. But don’t forget hidden costs such as music lessons, dance classes and after school care – if they’re not included in your school fees, you could be slugged with some hefty bills.
As you can see, it’s worthwhile adding up ALL the costs of sending your child to school, not just the annual fee. A school that has higher upfront fees may seem like the more expensive option, but if they offer cheaper uniforms, provide the technology and you live close by, it’ll end up being cheaper in the long-run.
These days, a lot of schools are happy to offer a weekly or fortnightly direct debit scheme to make it easier for you to pay the bills throughout the course of the year. However, some schools still request payment upfront at the beginning of the year, semester or term.
With all things considered, you may need to start saving now and think about speaking to a financial adviser who can put you on the path to improved budgeting and cash flow management. With the right planning and structures in place, you can be prepared for any surprises thrown your way as your child embraces every opportunity presented to them over their thirteen years at school.
Call us on 1300 726 082 or send us a message to find out how you can make plans to help you afford the best education for your children.
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