Counting the 'back to school' cost

Last updated 11:35 29/01/2013
Andrea O'Neil

BACK TO SCHOOL: Sarah Dow’s children Ixca, 9, Zaqueo, 3, and Iñaki, 5, enjoy the last of the summer sun. Having three boys at school does not mean breaking the bank, Ms Dow said.

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It is a time of year when parents feel the pinch on their wallets - back to school week.

But single mother-of-four Sarah Dow said it's not necessary to break the bank when the children go back to school.

Ms Dow has three sons at Titahi Bay School and one at Titahi Bay Preschool. School fees come to $60 for the family and she spent $75 on stationery this year for the three school-age boys.

"I think there's an economy of scale when you've got three kids at school."

The biggest expenses for the family are shoes and trousers, and after-school activities. The boys go through a pair of shoes each every two to four weeks, no matter if she spends $9 or $100 on them, she said. She pays $340 a term for the three oldest boys' swimming lessons and pays about $100 a term for each child's tennis lessons and Nippers surf lifesaving classes.

"Living next to the beach I think it's a necessity that my kids can swim."

Another strain on the wallet is school fundraising - parents often contribute groceries to raffles and then buy the tickets, or sponsor their children for activities such as triathlons.

Ms Dow saves money by re-using last year's exercise books if they're only half- written in, and baking rather than buying treats for lunches.

For childcare she relies on a strong network of families in Titahi Bay.

Back to school budget

* Stationery costs vary: a Titahi Bay School pupil needs stationery worth $33 to $42, depending on their class, while a Russell School year 1, 2 or 3 pupil pays $19.65.

* High school stationery costs substantially more: A Bishop Viard College year 9 student will pay $255.

* Voluntary school fees vary hugely: Titahi Bay School students pay $40 a year, while Adventure School pupils pay $220. Porirua College students pay $30 a year, while Tawa College students pay $290.

* A basic uniform for Porirua College students costs $283, excluding shoes. A Tawa College boy will pay $564 for a basic uniform and PE shirt, excluding shoes.

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