January 4, 2021

Big W’s New Back to School Ambassador

Author: Vanessa Stoykov
Category: Kids & Money

BIG W unveils annual Back to School Report, revealing Aussie shopping behaviours and spending habits ahead of the return to class.

With the Christmas and New Year rush over, it’s straight into back to school planning for many Australian families. Big W commissioned research through YouGov to find out what Aussie families’ back to school shopping behaviours and spending habits look like. I was happy to be the money ambassador to help give parents helpful tips.

Many families, while feeling buoyant, are feeling pressure to manage their budgets. According to the report, 83% of Aussie parents find back to school shopping stressful, with the biggest contributors to their stress are:

Cost (51%)

Having to go to multiple shops (38%)

Shopping with their kids in tow (27%)

Whilst back to school costs are weighing on people’s minds, the research has revealed a 10% increase in projected back to school spending, compared to last year. Aussie parents are planning on spending an average of $592 on school supplies per child in 2021, which is an increase of $54. Expected costs for back to school items include:

School uniforms – $180

School shoes – $111

Stationery – $92

School bags – $58

Lunch boxes and water bottles – $43

All other items – $108

In addition, technology devices like laptops, headphones and tablets, have been a growing back to school expense for Australian families, particularly with parents and children having to adopt home learning during COVID-19.

Parents are now expected to spend an average of $284 on tech items per child, up 17% from last year and more than any other category. 

Due to the impacts of COVID-19, the 2020 school year was a year like no other. The Back to School research revealed that as restrictions have eased, parents and children are now looking to regain a sense of normality and positivity to kick off the new year. In fact, almost three quarters of Aussie parents (73%) have said they are very much looking forward to the 2021 school year, while seven in ten (69%) think their children are excited and eager to enjoy the year ahead with their friends.

It’s great to see so many of us are looking forward to the next school year – in fact I think we appreciate school more than ever due to lockdowns this year. While parents will spend more on school, here are my tips to help parents save: be organised and have a clear path, plan your costs now, as it puts less pressure on you financially, and take advantage of online shopping, it saves you time and lets you compare prices.”


Big W Ambassador & back to school in the news

Vanessa Stoykov is Big W’s new back to school ambassador. Find out how you can save this school year.
Learn more

Planning for your 2021

  • Many families will be starting the year off in an organized state, with more than half of Aussie parents (57%) planning for ‘back to school’ a month or more in advance. However, not all parents will be on the front foot with one in ten (10%) admitting to only starting their ‘back to school’ shopping in the week or last few days before school starts.
  • Similarly, to last year (2019 – 94%), the overwhelming majority (93%) of parents still believe there are benefits to getting your ‘back to school’ shopping done early.
  • Parents who begin their back to school shopping early gain peace of mind (59%) by having more time to shop around for the best prices and deals (49%).
  • Due to the financial pressures that came from 2020, value for money (70%), affordability (53%) and quality of products (53%) are the most important to parents when shopping for their children’s ‘back to school’ items.
  • For those money savvy parents with children aged 5-17, seven in ten (70%) say they budget for ‘back to school’ shopping expenses, however it’s mainly a general budget (49%) with only one in five (21%) saying that they have a very detailed budget in place.
  • Millennial (30%) and Gen X parents (27%) are more likely than Baby Boomers (15%) to start their ‘back to school’ shopping at least two months ahead of the new school year.

COVID-19 Money Facts

  • When learning from home began in 2020 due to COVID-19 lockdowns, four in ten (41%) parents of children aged 5-17 had to purchase additional items to accommodate these changes.
  • More technology was also purchased due to remote learning with one in three (30%) parents buying more technology products such as laptops, printers, screens and headphones, and almost one in five (18%) had to buy furniture such as desks and chairs.
  • Two thirds (65%) of these financially impacted Aussie parents still think that they will be able to afford all of the essential ‘back to school’ supplies for their children in 2021. With a further one in ten (14%) admitting that they will not be able to afford essential supplies, and one in five (21%) don’t know.
  • Aussie Dads are 46% more likely than mums (36%) to say they had to purchase additional items to accommodate their children learning from home due to COVID lockdowns in 2020.

 Back to School Supply Costs 

  • The average cost of starting at a new school is on average $319 more expensive in terms of shopping for ‘back to school’ supplies, with parents of children that are starting at a new school in 2021 expected to spend an average of $1,164 per child on school supplies. Those whose children are attending the same school as last year, will spend $845 in comparison.
  • Parents who have a budget in place for back to school shopping (40%) are more likely to think they will spend more on supplies in 2021, compared to previous years, than those who do not (26%).
  • When preparing for back to school shopping, one in three (35%) parents of children aged 5-17 think they will spend more on back to school supplies for 2021. The most common reason for spending more was that the school or child’s needs / wants had increased (21%). Parents feel that as a child ages, either school requirements increase, or the child starts requesting a particular product or brand.
  • The main ways parents of children aged 5-17 will look to reduce back to school supply costs are buying supplies ahead of time when they are on special (44%), only buying the essentials (40%) and re-purposing supplies bought for 2020 that weren’t used because of COVID / online learning (37%).

 Spending on Back to School

  • Aussie parents are planning on spending an average of $592 on school supplies per child in 2021, an increase of $54, or 10%, on last year.
  • Unsurprisingly, school uniforms remain the item parents expect to spend most on, followed by all other items (not including shoes, stationary, school bags, lunch boxes and water bottles).
  • When preparing for back to school shopping, almost half (46%) of parents think they will spend about the same as previous years in 2021.
  • Although down from 46% in 2019, a third (36%) of parents think they will spend more than they have in previous years, while one in ten (13%), the equivalent of 521,000 parents, think they will spend a lot more.
  • To reduce back to school costs parents will be sourcing some items second hand (29%) and gifting school supplies part of their children’s Christmas presents (16%).
  • The financial pressures of the past year mean that almost nine in ten (88%) parents of children aged 5-17 will look to reduce the cost of back to school supplies for 2021.
  • When added to the other categories, tech devices and sporting gear brings the total expected average ‘back to school’ spend up to a staggering $970 per child for the 2021 school year, up 12% on 2019.

Research commissioned by Big w via Yougov for insights into back to school spending habits of Australians – This took place in December 2020 – January 2021; to provide parents with the facts and figures they need to begin 2021 off on the right foot.

Until next time,


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