Julia Slater has spent nearly $500 this week getting her two daughters ready for primary school - and there will be a further $300 to pay in donations.

"It's a bloody lot of money, isn't it?" says the Browns Bay woman, who recently moved with her family from Queenstown where the local school didn't have uniforms or such specific stationery requests.

"I was thinking, 'My God', because we haven't saved up for it.

"It's just coming out of our monthly budget, which is fast depleting. We struggle on one income."

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Olivia, 7, and Lauren, 5 will start at Sherwood Primary School on January 31 - the first day of the school year.

Mrs Slater said that while she didn't mind uniforms, it would have been cheaper to buy the right coloured clothing instead of having to buy Sherwood-labelled items which are far more expensive.

"Coming from a school that didn't have a uniform at all, it's certainly a big cost. We wouldn't have spent that much on the kids' clothes [if they weren't in uniform]."

"It's a shame you can't buy a plain blue skirt from Postie Plus or something and they can wear all year round ... Everything has got the name of the school on it. I think it's a bit over the top."

Mrs Slater was also surprised at the costs and how specific some of the stationery requests were, such as a dictionary and thesaurus which had to be Collins 3rd Edition.

Olivia's pack came to $120.79, and Lauren's was $69.51.

"The stationery packs were a lot more than I expected because the pack they used to get at their old school for the whole year was, like, $30," Mrs Slater said.

"It's quite a significant difference.

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" I was quite shocked at how specific their list was. They stated that if you didn't bring the right one they would send it home with a letter."

Mrs Slater has a son who will start school next year as well, and with the girls growing so quickly she is conscious of more costs to come.

She is grateful there is a secondhand uniform shop, where she managed to get a couple of the girls' items, but clothing went pretty quickly and there wasn't much there when she visited this week.

Mrs Slater and husband Paul will pay off the school 'donations' throughout the year as they are too much to afford now, on top of stationery and uniforms and straight after Christmas. "We knew these costs would be coming up but never knew how much. But it's something you have got to do, you can't put it off."