As the 2018 school year draws closer Rotorua parents are preparing for the inevitable cost of sending their children back to school, including uniforms and stationery.

But while school costs are an annual challenge, Rotorua Intermediate principal Garry de Thierry said they should not come as a surprise.

"Those costs have always been there. Anyone who comes to our school, in term three we give them a heads up so they have a chance to budget," de Thierry said.

"The pressure is on parents, especially going to schools with uniforms."


He said when it came to stationery, prices were competitive.

Westbrook School principal Colin Watkins said the school wanted to make the new year as easy as possible.

"Every principal in this town knows that Christmas is financially stressful on families. We also know very few families have the opportunity to recover between then and the school year," Watkins said.

He said the school, and many others in the city, had a system where parents could set up regular automatic payments into a school account.

That account can be used later to pay fees, for trips and for stationery and was well-used and appreciated by parents, he said.

"We don't have a school uniform so that's not an issue but for those that do that's a major cost," he said.

NZ Uniforms in Rotorua stocks uniforms for multiple schools in the area.

The price of shorts is around the $40 to $50 mark for primary schools and up to $80 for high schools. Polo shirts and shirts retail between $28 and $65. Then there are sweaters, polar fleeces and jackets, from $42 to $130, depending on the school.

Optional extras like a scarf, blazer, school socks, gym gear and hats add up too.

NZ Uniforms chief executive David Bunnell said the cost of a uniform could be anything from $100 to $1000 per child.

The price came down to how stringent a school's uniform policy was and the age of the child.

Bunnell said uniforms were usually more expensive the older the child. It also depended on if the school had one uniform or both summer and winter uniforms.

"There's a strong trend back towards formality across the country," Bunnell said.

"If you go to more formal uniforms that's going to be more expensive."

The company's Uniform Club initiative is a savings scheme which allows parents to put away money throughout the year, allowing them to add payments to the card whenever they can.

Bunnell said the scheme was well-utilised.

"It's extremely popular because it's a very sensible approach," he said.

"Parents save towards a uniform over the course of the year, obviously when it comes to going back to school they can draw on these funds."

National Building Financial Capability Charitable Trust chief executive Tim Barnett said "ever-increasing" back to school costs could be overwhelming after the Christmas and summer period.

Barnett suggested brainstorming what was needed and prioritising the essentials, as well as finding ways to source items affordably.

"You might be able to find school uniforms secondhand either through the school or through your community," he said.

"If a device is important, be careful of getting into a credit contract, that may have hidden fees or high interest rates. Schools often offer payment plans to help families buy technology.

"Record how much you have spent and plan to have that money available for the next year when school starts again."

Tips for back-to-school costs
Shop around for the best deals.
Make sure any devices meet specifications.
Stationery does not need to bought all at once. Start with what you need.
Buy functional stationery, not what's on trend.
Plan and prioritise using a list. Write down the essentials.
Source the important items affordably.
Make note of what you spent so you can plan for the following year.
Work and Income can make a recoverable assistance payment.
- National Building Financial Capability Charitable Trust