It is the same dilemma each year, but one that never gets worn.
The cost of school uniforms and other associated expenses is a burden on a lot of families and as the new year fast approaches, families throughout Hawke's Bay, especially those with children starting a new school are counting the cost of kitting out their children.
On top of fees and uniforms, those with school-aged children are expected to pay for camps, other activities and digital devices, if schools require it.
Many schools - primary, intermediate and secondary - require their students to have uniforms, a large number provided by SchoolTex and available at The Warehouse, although many have their own uniform shops at school.
Depending on the school, these can include regulation trousers, shorts or skorts, hats, long and short-sleeved tops, polar fleeces, jackets and vests, socks and shoes.
Prices can vary on the items, including whether or not they have a monogram with the school logo.
Napier parent Asa Ene has a son starting his first year at Marewa School and another son starting Year 9 at Napier Boys' High School, with three others already at school. He believes the cost is exorbitant, no matter where a child attends.
Staring down the barrel of an expensive first year, Mr Ene and his partner set aside $1000 to cover the cost of buying a summer uniform, stationery pack and Chromebook, as well as a bike to get him to and from school.
For a mixture of second-hand and new items, George's uniform including shorts (x2), shirts (x2), socks (x2), a PE uniform, scarf, cap and shoes cost $212.
This is excluding a jersey priced at $95 new and a jacket for $90, as well as winter items.
On top of that, a stationery pack is expected to cost between $100 to $200, not including a personal electronic device, which can cost anywhere upwards of $250.
Mr Ene believes it is not affordable for many families, but is made somewhat bearable by having two incomes, with both of them working.
"It is not easy because we have got five kids between ourselves so it is stretching things a bit."
Napier Boys' High School headmaster Matt Bertram said the cost depends on the type of school.
"At Napier Boys', we always work hard to keep the costs for parents to a minimum. We do sell our own uniform but also offer a good second-hand store as well – run by our Parents' League.
He noted that they offer parents a payment plan to assist with the initial uniform purchase and also have a hardship fund to which families can apply if necessary.
"While I have received two concerns from parents regarding costs in the past few years, I know that there will be a number of families who find the cost of schooling a challenge, hence our aim to keep our uniform as simple and affordable as possible and to always review the costs we expect families to meet.
"We also offer parents the convenience of our own 'start of year' stationery shop, however, many choose to use the competitive retail outlets available."
Napier Boys' High School is not currently a BYOD school, and it is something that Mr Bertram said "affordability and equity will be at the heart of our decision-making in this area".
Likewise, Tamatea High School principal Robin Fabish said he understood that uniforms, stationery and devices can be costly particularly for families who are already struggling to make ends meet.
"Education is definitely not free in our country. Having said that, at Tamatea High School, we will bend over backwards to make sure that money is not a barrier to access learning for our students."
Upon students enrolling in mid-September, they encourage families to start an automatic payment to the school to take the edge off the cost of starting the year, with many parents taking advantage of this.
"There are a number of people who we are supporting with their financial challenges and we believe it's our moral obligation to do so. I am also grateful to organisations like KidsCan who support us with food, uniforms, shoes and jackets for our students - it all helps us tremendously.
"In my opinion the state school system is excellent value for money - our fees at Tamatea are $80 per year and $50 per year allows our students to play up to four sports codes. I want to point out though that reduced fees does not mean reduced quality education. At Tamatea High we have dedicated, committed and hard-working teachers who are as good as the teachers in any other school and our results are well above national norms."
St John's College principal Paul Melloy shared the same sentiment, noting that "uniforms and BYOD devices are expensive, however, we need to consider alternatives" where it can lead to competition in fashion and pressure on youth to conform to popular trends, as well as costing more.
"Uniform at St John's is sold at wholesale prices and Kukri is very good quality that lasts.
Digital technology is the future and now an integral part of 21st century education. However, like uniform, support must be given to those in our community who need financial help. In each year group, we currently budget for devices to support those who need help.
"Education is changing and quickly. We need to keep abreast of these changes so each of our pupils are not disadvantaged in this transforming world. What is important is that nobody is left behind. Financial barriers should not exist in New Zealand education. We cannot have an education system of the 'have' and 'have nots'." Meanwhile brother, Oscar Ene is "super excited" about starting school for the first time and is all kitted out in his slightly less expensive uniform.
Marewa School has a compulsory school uniform consisting of polo shirt for $33, sweater for $35 and polar fleece for $40, as well as either black shorts, skirts or pants which can be bought anywhere and in any style.
In addition, the school provides a warriors rain jacket and school hat.
"It is very pricey but because it is his first day at school, we decided to buy him new items and that puts it up a bit," Mr Ene said.
"We're going to be in for a hard year for sure. It will stretch us a bit." Similarly, single mother Amy Morrison is feeling the cost after buying the basics for her daughter, Frankie Morrison, who starts at Taradale Intermediate next week.
"It has been huge and I know it was a bit of a scramble at the end of last year to get all the money together, and I knew it was coming so I should have saved a little bit more wisely."
Despite trying to get help from WINZ, she was turned away after earning 42c too much to be entitled to the $300, as it is means tested.
"I didn't qualify for any help so that was $260 for the uniform and then you have to add on shoes and they recommend that they have a laptop as well, so that is where all the extra money has gone."
Ms Morrison is all for uniforms because it is neat and tidy and stops the competition between children, but doesn't understand why everything has to be emblazoned with the school uniform which increases the price.
"Why can't we have the school colours and everyone be able to get it from The Warehouse or other stores for a cheaper price?"
She has found the lack of second-hand uniforms a problem, further adding to the cost.
"I work and live week to week. The focus should be getting our kids to school and getting them an education and it being fun.
"There is a little bit of pressure there but we got there. We had to juggle bills and hold off paying some bills until next month."
Taradale Intermediate principal Rex Wilson said: "It is a parent's responsibility to clothe their children and our uniform costs are reasonable compared to similar quality clothing purchased from another clothing retailer.
"Back to school is often a challenging time for parents as they recover from Christmas and holiday spending, and then are asked to pay these costs at the end of January. We all sympathise with that." He said they have a limited supply of second-hand uniforms because this relies on past pupils bringing them in to school and in a condition suitable for on-selling.
Devices are not compulsory at the school, although they are recommended.
The debate surrounding digital technology is a complex one.
Ministry of Education spokeswoman Katrina Casey believes that the simple message is that no student's learning should ever be disadvantaged by a lack of access to technology.
"It is not unusual for schools to ask parents to provide a device if they can, but in instances where parents cannot afford to do so, schools typically take other steps to ensure every student has equal access to digital devices.
"While schools can't use operational funding to help pay for student or family owned devices, they can use operational funding for school-owned devices. Many schools for example are purchasing class sets of devices, or working with local charity trusts to buy technology for parents and whānau on lease-to-buy arrangements."
She noted that initiatives such as the Manaiakalani Programme are enabling local students to access anywhere and anytime learning by supporting parents to buy digital devices, and to acquire internet access at home.
In Central Hawke's Bay, Year 9 and new students are fretting over the delayed arrival of the Central Hawke's Bay College's skirt, after the Chinese company went under.
Story's Clothing in Waipukurau, who stock the school uniform, said it was the first time something like this had happened.
"There are four colleges affected around New Zealand and I believe the fabric is in the country and now they are making them so we should have them in time hopefully."
Owner Gerard Minehan said the $80 for CHB College's school dress compared favourably with private schools in Havelock North, where dresses cost as much as $180, and Dannevirke High, where the school dress cost $120.
He said he kept his prices as reasonable as possible.
"There is hardly any margin in the uniforms. We haven't raised our prices in five years," he said.
Ms Casey said: "Schools want children and young people to attend and will do all they can to help. Schools can support parents in a number of ways. That can include staggering payments and helping to make second-hand uniforms available or putting families in touch with other organisations that can help."
Parents on a benefit or low incomes may be eligible for assistance from Work and Income for the costs of school uniforms, stationery, school camps and trips, or other activity costs.
However, they are required to pay this money back to Work and Income. Work and Income may be able to help with computing equipment, eg, iPad, laptop or tablet, but parents need to talk to the school first to see what options are available.
Hawke's Bay Secondary Principals' Association chairman and Taradale High School principal Stephen Hensman said their school does allow families under certain conditions to have credit on uniforms and buy of laptops if they need to.
And this is the same for Flaxmere School principal and Hawke's Bay Primary Principals' Association president Robyn Isaacson who said there are always families who will find it a challenge at this time of year to meet the cost of returning to school.
"There are certainly systems in school and we try to keep costs to a minimum so that it is not adding extra pressure to our families - that's what we do at Flaxmere school - but I know that a lot of schools have systems in place to support the payment of expenses to start at the beginning of the year."
Mr Fabish believed schools play a critical role for society.
"We're shaping the citizens of tomorrow and it would be a travesty if our young people were denied a solid education through financial circumstances that is no fault of theirs or their families. Our vision is 'Growing good people for a changing world' and student finances will not get in the way of that."
As well as in-house school shops that sell second-hand uniforms, for those on a tighter budget there is also a Facebook page - Hawke's Bay school uniforms buy and sell - which mostly caters for intermediate and high schools.
For more information on the Manaiakalani Programme, visit http://www.manaiakalani.org/about-us