Back to School: What Does It Cost to Send Your Kids to Public School
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Back to School

A public education in Canada is free for students, but there are costs associated with sending your kids to back to school. Here’s what you can expect to pay out of pocket.

While public education in Canada is technically free, there are still a few costs associated with sending a child to school. If you are sending a child to school in Ontario or British Columbia, here are some things you may be expected to pay for.

Back to School Shopping

Canadians spent around $883 per family on back to school supplies in 2017, $325 more than they spent on holiday gifts! This includes:

  • Tech gadgets like laptops ($580) and smartphones ($250)
  • School supplies ($100)
  • Clothing and shoes ($300)

Learning Materials

Many students are required to pay for certain necessary learning materials. While the BC School Act does maintain that necessary learning materials such as textbooks and workbooks be provided for students, some schools are able to skirt this. A student who cannot afford to purchase a workbook, for example, may be able to borrow one, but must return it in good condition with no writing in it.

Possible out-of-pocket costs could include:

  • Student agendas
  • Guest speakers or school performances
  • Yearbooks
  • School fundraising activities
  • School activity fees (e.g. food programs, field trips, pizza days, prom fees, school dances, club fees, etc.)
  • School recreational activities ((e.g. trips, leagues,tournaments, lessons, etc.)

Budgeting for Back to School

Over half of parents said that back to school shopping puts a strain on household finances, with nearly 40% reporting that it takes months for them to pay off the bill. More than one third say that they don’t realize how much they’ve spent until they see their credit card statement.

Here are a few tips to keep your back to school spending in check:

  • Set a firm budget, based on your family income
  • Review what is supplied to you by the school versus what are required to purchase yourself.
  • Create a realistic “must-have” and a “nice to have” list.
  • Get your kids involved in the process.

A free public education is a wonderful thing. Canadians are fortunate, compared to many other nations. Understanding the associated or incidental costs of sending your children to school can help you set a reasonable budget.


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