24/01/2016 6:25 AM AEDT | Updated 28/09/2016 9:56 PM AEST

Back To School Shopping Tips To Save Time And Money


It might be difficult for some people to believe but there are those among us who find the task of ‘back-to-school shopping’ somewhat stressful.

Sure, the lengthy queues to get your child’s precious feet measured for the standard black pair of shoes can test your patience, but for many there’s a simple solution: do it fast and do it early.

New research from Target has revealed 48 percent of Aussie parents are stressed out about shopping for school items and top of the list is school and sports shoes. The average parent replaces these shoes 1.3 and 1.2 times a year -- mostly due to poor quality.

The survey also shows 99 percent of parents rank durability and quality as the most important factors to consider when purchasing school items, yet they’re still replacing school wear at least once a year.

At Huffington Post Australia, we’re doing our part in reducing the stress factor for Australian parents and sharing our ‘Mum’s Top Tips’.

At the end of last year, most parents would have received a ‘stationery list’ of the bits and pieces you need to buy your little darling to fill his/her pencil case and school bag. While some people rush to the nearest Smiggle for the super-cool stuff, the majority of parents need cost effective products -- especially when you’re shopping for multiple children.

The most popular shops for back-to-school items:

Officeworks, Target, Kmart, Coles, Big W, Woolworths and Aldi.

School Shoes

When you’re looking at school and sports shoes there’s either Target and Kmart or an enormous variety of shoe speciality shops -- even those that cater specifically for kids shoes. At least at the speciality shops you have an assistant ready to measure your kids' feet. So unless you know exactly what size she/he is, you'd be better off paying the extra cash.


When it comes to school uniforms: you can either shop at the schools’ Uniform Shop (easy peasy!) or, for generic uniforms there’s Best n Less, Lowes, Target, Kmart and Big W. If your child goes to a school that insists on having the school logo on everything, you have no choice but to head to the uniform shop and fork out those extra hundreds of dollars.

Exercise books & everything else

The bulk of back-to-school shopping involves all the stuff that fills the school bags and, this year, the prices are incredibly competitive. For example, an exercise book that sells for 50c at Coles is down to 20c at Woolies.

But what do the mums think? (Let’s face it; it’s usually the mums who are burdened with the task of shopping for kids. There are exceptions, of course, but in most households, it's up to Mum.)

Woolworths back to school display

Emma Riley, mother of three boys, aged 9, 11 & 15

Shop of choice: Officeworks

Officeworks is the ultimate one stop shop. Everything is super cheap. I love the $3.99 pencil cases, plus you can buy a 3 pack of highlighters for under $5 -- at the local newsagency you’re looking at $3 for just one highlighter. The other thing I love about Officeworks is you can focus only on back to school shopping. If I go to Coles or Woollies or Aldi, I’m too distracted by all the food I need to buy the family, so I end up spending three times as much as I planned.

My best tip is don’t be a cheapskate when it comes to shoes. I’ve bought my kids cheap shoes in the past. Kids are wearing the same pair of shoes 4-5 days a week and they’re notoriously tough on their shoes. Imagine if we wore the same pair of shoes for that long, almost every day? The cheap shoes just don’t last more than one term, or two if you’re lucky. My mother has a saying ‘If you buy cheap, you buy twice.’ So don’t skimp on the shoes. You’re better off going to a more expensive shoe shop like Shoes & Sox and pay $100 than going to a Target or Kmart and spending half the price. You’ll only end up replacing them.

Michelle Rankin: mother of a boy & girl, aged 11 & 14

Shop of Choice: Woolies plus Officeworks

I like to think I am ‘famous’ within my own family for leaving everything until the last minute. I never stress about back to school shopping and, instead, I like to drop into Coles the day before school begins. Of course, there’s always the risk that other mums have totally cleaned out the school section in the weeks leading up to school, but that’s never happened to me. If worse comes to worst and Coles has run out of HB lead pencils, there’s always the newsagency around the corner.

This year I’ve seen exercise books for 50 cents each. I’m sure the quality of the paper is no different to the exercise books you can buy at Officeworks or Kmart. When it comes to school uniforms, I go to Best and Less for the basic white short sleeved shirts for my sons ($12) which is a lot cheaper than visiting the school’s uniform shops where the exact same shirt sells for $25. I’ve done the bulk of the stationery shopping at Woolies, because it is so incredibly cheap and, I figure, how many different brands of lead pencils and textas does one kid really need? But I’ve noticed there is one item on most primary school lists that the supermarkets do not stock -- white board markers. For that item alone I had to go to Officeworks. Can we send a message to Coles and Woolies that if they really want to compete with Officeworks next year, they need to stock whiteboard markers because, if it wasn’t for that one item, I would have been able to do pretty much all my shopping at Woolies.

Erin Carroll, mother of a 5-year-old boy

Shop of choice: Officeworks

I’m a first time school mum so it’s all quite new to me but I’ve been caught up in the hype of how fabulous Officeworks is. Most of my friends with older kids are telling me there’s no point going anywhere else. So I’ve taken my friends’ advice and the only comment I really have to make is that I was happy that everything on Lachie’s list was in the one place! I don’t think their exercise books were quite as cheap as the 20cents at Woolies but from what I’ve seen, the Officeworks ones were thicker. I’m not the world’s greatest shopper at the best of times but I loved that I could turn up to Officeworks as a clueless first timer and walk around with my stationary list and tick every single item.

Linda Farrell, mother of two boys, 8 and 10

Shop of choice: Target, Woollies, Coles and Aldi

I’m somewhat of a shopaholic so I don’t find school shopping stressful, I thrive on a lengthy shopping list. I loved Officeworks last year but this year I decided to take a chance on my local Coles and Woolies, with a bit of Aldi thrown in as well, only because those three stores are all nearby. Coles and Woolies were much of a muchness. They didn’t really have anything unique to themselves. But Aldi had some items that were really quirky, like Star Wars exercise books and some really lovely hard back black page notebooks that were only 89c -- I actually grabbed a few for my own work. The cheapest highlighters by far were at Aldi -- $2.89 for a six pack. I used to think, ‘Why does anybody need that many highlighters’ but you always need some spares, unless you want to risk getting a note from the teacher telling you your child ‘needs a new highlighter’ . Woolies has some great sketch books for $2 -- they’re at least twice as much as the newsagency -- and I also grabbed a nice pack of coloured textas for $3. If you’re looking for some fun lunchboxes and backpacks, Aldi has some great ones and I got my boys to choose which made it pretty fun. For shoes, I’m going to try Target this year because they’ve got some good deals and I'm short of cash at the moment. I figure, if they fall apart by term two, at least I’ve had my money’s worth.

The Verdict:

The general consensus seems to be that Officeworks is the best place to go if you want a guarantee they will have absolutely everything on your child’s stationery list. But, there’s nothing wrong with dropping into your local Coles or Woolies as well. Just be prepared that if ‘white board markers’ is on your list, you won’t find it there. Aldi is cheap and also great for those off-the-wall items that the others don’t stock (those Darth Vadar drink bottles are pretty amazing).

For shoes: It’s a matter of choice. Cheaper option of Target and Kmart versus speciality shoe stores.

For uniforms: It’s always going to be easy going to your school’s uniform shop but you’ll have to had ordered ahead of time. For last minute buys, Best n Less has generic uniforms, along with Target and Kmart and Big W.

An issue: Why on earth do the supermarkets insist on placing the Easter egg display up close and personal to the back-to-school display? Of course it’s just another timely reminder that time passes very quickly.

Easter Bunnies on display at Woolies on January 21