Some parents are being pushed into debt as a result of increased demands to shell out for digital devices for their children's schoolwork.
As students prepare for the new school year, increasing numbers of them are being asked to bring their own electronic tablets and laptops to class.
But stumping up for the devices, cases and software - on top of school fees, uniforms and stationery - is proving a budget buster for some families.
Mangere Budgeting Services chief executive Darryl Evans said his office had been swamped since Christmas with people battling debt after buying iPads and personal computers for their children.
Some families were racking up tabs with high-interest payday lenders. Others were resorting to buying the devices from mobile truck shops that could charge up to four times the recommended retail price for electronic goods, but offer easy credit options.
"One mum of three took out a personal loan for $1,200 and is struggling to make the repayments," Evans said. "[The expenses are] leading to people cutting back on food. It is causing a lot of distress."
Evans said several South Auckland low-decile schools provided free or leased devices, but some children attending schools with a BYO policy were being stigmatised.
"Some families won't send their kids back to school on time because they can't afford these devices and don't want their children to feel different," he said. "They would rather keep them at home until they scrape up some cash."
Figures contained in the Planning for Education Index released on Friday showed families could spend up to $37,676 on their children's state education. The survey also found that for a child born this year, 13 years of private school education would cost an estimated $323,814.
Parents required to buy devices for school will shell out up to $600 on tablets or laptops for each child. On top of that, about $50 is required for a case and it can cost the same or more to buy educational apps.
Denise Torrey, president of the Principals' Association, said school boards were turning to grant applications and fundraising to provide free or cheap-to-lease personal computers.
Back-to-school costs creep up
Olivia Slater is heading back to school as a Year 6 student. Photo / Doug Sherring
Kitting out three kids for a new year of school will cost one Auckland family almost $2,000.
That amount includes the cost of a $369 laptop for 10-year-old Olivia Slater, a Year 6 pupil at Sherwood Primary, in Browns Bay on Auckland's North Shore.
Laptop use is encouraged by the school. "Most kids will have them and you don't want your child to feel like the odd one out," said her mum, Julia Slater, who shopped around for the device.
"I have two younger kids (James, 6, and Lauren, 8) who will also soon need personal computers, so the cost of going back to school is going to be considerable for us for quite some time," Slater said. "About another $50 to $100 is needed for software and a case will be another $50."
Between the cost of school fees, donations, uniforms and now a laptop, Slater estimated she will shell out about $2,000.