Back-to-school report 2020: How Aussie parents can save inside and outside the classroom

Putting your kids through school is no easy expense - and every back-to-school period, Aussie parents face the same old struggle of staying on top of the costs of a new term. New Mozo research has found that households across the nation could be spending some billions of dollars every year on things like lunchbox snacks and after school activities. 

Read on for the full report findings. 

The cost of extracurricular activities 

If there’s one thing parents have in common, it’s that they love to spoil their kids with new experiences and opportunities to explore their hobbies. From dance classes to swimming lessons, chances are many Aussie mums and dads are dipping into their savings this back-to-school season to pay for their children’s activities outside of the classroom. 

And as new Mozo research* reveals, these extracurricular activities don’t come cheap, with the average household forking out $1,859 a year for just one activity per child in the household - nationally, this adds up to a staggering $3.8 billion!

“After school activities are a great way to expand your child’s education and allow them to foster friendship with kids in the local neighbourhoods. However, the cost can quickly add up,” Mozo Director and Money Expert, Kirsty Lamont said. 

Mozo found non-sporting activities tended to have a higher price tag, with piano lessons costing $1,319 and language lessons costing $1,263 on average per year. That’s almost double the price of sports like swimming ($694 a year) and ballet ($663 a year). 

However, by far the most expensive extracurricular activity was equestrian, which hit Aussie parents with an eye-watering average of $3,280 per year. Meanwhile, scouts came out on top as the cheapest (and the kindest to your wallet), at $270 per year. 

Mozo also found that in some cases, activities grew more costly over time. For instance, the price of gymnastics soars as children pick up new skills, leaping from $206 to $800 a term once they start entering competitions and training multiple times a week. 

Back-to-school savings

But according to Lamont, it’s certainly possible for parents to reduce the dent that after school activities leave on their bank account.

“Extracurricular activities can be expensive so it pays to shop around, ask questions and compare prices, as you’re committing to a long term, ongoing cost,” she said. 

“Many clubs offer discounts for siblings that join that same club. Often there are also discounts for returning members from previous years.” 

Besides ongoing costs, it’s also important not to forget about upfront costs like uniform and competition fees before signing your kids up for after school activities. 

As for the more expensive activities, it may be a financially savvy move to enrol your kids in one term, instead of the whole year. For instance, parents could consider making swimming a summer-only sport or soccer a winter-only sport. This would reduce average expenses by nearly four times - from $694 to $188 for swimming, and $801 to $216 for soccer. 

Thinking outside the lunchbox

The savings don’t stop at extracurricular activities. A separate Mozo survey** also found Aussie parents could be saving $432 per child, per year on lunchbox snacks - just by switching from prepackaged purchases to bulk buying. 

Lamont said Aussie parents are throwing hundreds of dollars down the drain by choosing convenience over food prep. 

“Parents might be surprised by the accumulated cost of convenience, with packaged cheese and crackers costing $2 per serving, compared to just 51 cents when making at home from a packet of crackers and block of cheese,” she said. 

“Dried fruit was also expensive when prepackaged, with sultanas costing 50 cents for an individual serve, rather than just 17 cents for a rationed amount from a larger packet.”

How to save on lunchbox snacks

By comparing the price of prepackaged snack multipacks with the price of the same volume of the same snack in bulk, Mozo found that Aussie households could be saving an average $777 per year on cheese and crackers, sultanas, juice, popcorn and yoghurt. 

And of all the lunchbox snacks that Mozo looked at, DIY cheese and crackers reaped the biggest savings. Unlike prepackaged cheese and crackers which set parents back an average $300 per year, per lunchbox, buying a block of cheese and a packet of crackers and dividing them into portions across the week could cost parents as little as $102 a year! 

Curious about other savvy ways to save? For the latest savings news and guides, head over to the Mozo savings accounts hub. 

*Mozo calculated the average cost of 15 activities from across Australian capital cities to find an average cost. Cost per term was based on a 10-week term and yearly costs were based on 37 week school year. Data was used from Participation in Selected Culture Activities Australia 2017-2018 and Schools 2018 from ABS to calculate national figures.

**Calculations are based on non-discounted prices from Woolworths online on 20 January 2018. Percentage difference is calculated using unit price of each item. Per year saving is over a school year with holidays excluded, and is calculated using the volume of a single pre-packaged item compared with the same volume of the larger size package. Number of students enrolled in school was found by ABS data 2018 along with the number of children per household in Australia.

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