A survey has found one in five New Zealand families (22 per cent) are sacrificing basic necessities such as food, electricity, clothing and personal hygiene products in order to cater for their children's costly back-to-school needs.
Across the country, 88 per cent of Kiwi parents are facing frustration, stress and significant financial strain.
The survey, by PureProfile and commissioned by Postie+, found school uniforms were often at the heart of this strain.
Of the more than 500 parents surveyed, 72 per cent said they found school uniforms too expensive, 53 per cent believed they were of poor quality, and 69 per cent of parents wanted the option to purchase a less expensive generic uniform alternative.
The average cost of a school uniform is $265, but the survey found many parents were only prepared to pay $131.
The study also revealed only one in five schools allowed generic alternatives to school uniforms (18 per cent).
Dunedin Budget Advisory Service executive officer Andrew Henderson was surprised at the number of struggling families.
"Anecdotally, it could be that high in Otago, but it's hard to gauge.
"It is certainly a tough time of year for families.
"Basically, in the southern hemisphere, it's a triple whammy at this time of year.
"You've got the cost of Christmas presents," he said.
"Then you've got the cost of child care over the Christmas holiday period, because often parents have to take unpaid leave or sort out alternative arrangements for child care so they can keep working.
"And then there's also the back-to-school costs."
Henderson said budgeting for back-to-school costs was extremely important, but unfortunately the time for budgeting for the 2017 school year had now passed.
"Now is when you should be starting to plan for next year.
"So as far as budgeting goes, if you know what your children are doing next year, find out what the costs are likely to be, and then start making arrangements now to pay for that."
He suggested making small automatic payments into a savings account each week.
Some stationery retailers had back-to-school clubs, where customers could put small amounts of money on to a card when making purchases during the year, he said.
"You can use it to buy stationery when kids go back to school. It's similar to supermarkets that have Christmas club cards."
However, he said there were some alternatives for those needing funding now.
The JR McKenzie Trust provided parents on low incomes, with funding to buy school uniforms for children starting intermediate or secondary school for the first time this year.
"If you are a Winz client, I would certainly talk to them, as well.
"I'm sure they would help.
"There are also clothing outlets like Postie+ that have less expensive alternatives to branded school uniforms.
"And if parents contact the school itself, often they have a day before school opens, when they sell second-hand uniforms.
"I heard of someone who got their entire uniform for $90. That's a really good saving."
Henderson's best advice was, don't ignore financial problems.
"If you think you are going to be experiencing a tough time, the time to ask for help is as soon as possible.
"Don't leave it to the last minute, because often there's not a lot that can be done."