Brand name vs basic: are you overpaying for back to school supplies?

Brand name vs basic: are you overpaying for back to school supplies?

School holidays are coming to an end, and you know what that means: back to school shopping.

Stores everywhere are setting up displays full of the coolest new products to tempt excited little spenders – but your wallet might not be so enthusiastic.

After all, it’s common knowledge that you’ll usually pay more for brand name buys, and that they aren’t necessarily better quality than their basic counterparts. This holds true for school supplies as much as anything else.

So you could spend an arm and a leg to kit your kids out with the trendiest, brand name notebooks, pens and backpack – or you could save yourself $150 by opting for these frugal alternatives.


Top of the list of school supplies is usually a nice new notebook for every class. Skip the stylish (and expensive) options this year, and instead, opt for an ordinary notebook that your kids can customise with stickers, magazine cuttings or their own art.

Or, add a book cover to your purchase, and it can still wind up cheaper.

Swap out Typo notebooks for an ordinary binder book you can customise at home and

save between $2.11 – $3.59 on each notebook

Coloured pencils

A pack of coloured pencils is a prerequisite for primary schoolers everywhere – but you don’t need to pay an arm and a leg for them. Once they’re out of the packaging and into the pencil case, it will be hard to even tell the difference between trendy and basic brands.

Swap out Smiggle branded coloured pencils for a pack from Officeworks, and

save $8.45

School shoes

Let’s face it, kids go through shoes like their parents go through chocolate after a long day – quickly. But when you can pick up quality leather shoes for less than $50, every scuff will hurt a little less.

Swap brand name shoes from Myer for a pair of Spend-less school shoes and

save $89.96


Here’s the thing – accidents happen. And they happen even more often when you put kids and food together. Imagine an expensive lunchbox covered in vegemite, jelly and biscuit crumbs, and if that’s enough to bring tears to your eyes, do yourself a favour and opt for the inexpensive version.

Swap your trendy PackIt lunchbox for a colourful option from Big W and

save $22.95


The final item: a brand new backpack to carry all those frugal school supplies around in. As the first line of defense against stains, smears and weather, the trusty old backpack is probably in for a rough time – so why spend more than you have to?

Swap the Roxy backpack for one from Target (it also comes in navy blue) and

save $29.99

Top frugal back to school tips

  • Try your hand at DIY decorations. To jazz up budget notebooks, or even things like backpacks and lunchboxes, why not get a bit creative? All you need is some coloured markers (which you’re probably buying anyway), stickers or magazine cuttings. Your kids can have fun decorating, plus they’ll get to put their own personal spin on their school supplies.
  • Consider quality. Keep in mind that the cheapest option is not always the one that you’ll get the most value from, especially with things like shoes or backpacks. If it’s something your kids can and will use for years to come, weigh up the benefit of investing in quality, rather than getting drawn in by the lowest price tag.
  • Think about longevity. On the other hand, kids can change quickly and even the best school supplies can fall victim to accidents. So if you think you’ll probably be buying new shoes or a new backpack next year anyway – whether to soothe the demands of a childish ego, because of a sudden growth spurt or to replace a destroyed item – it might be better to opt for the cheap version.
  • Set a budget and let your kids know what it is. Use back to school shopping as an opportunity to teach your kids about budgeting, by giving them a set amount of money to spend on their supplies. Then help them prioritise and plan their spending – for example, explain that splurging on a lunchbox might mean settling for a cheaper backpack.

Have a tip of the best ways to stay frugal while shopping for school supplies? Or maybe you like to splurge when your kids are heading back to the classroom? Let us know in the comments!

Brand name vs basic: are you overpaying for back to school supplies? was last modified: February 1, 2017 by Kelly Emmerton

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