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Tablet costs stretch parents

wta180117gfbudget01 Grant Howard, manager of Wairarapa Free Budget Advice Service, says parents should avoid paying too much for tablets for their primary school children. PHOTO/GERALD FORD

By Gerald Ford

Parents face rising costs this month as their children return to school – and they should avoid spending too much on technology, says a budget advisor.

Grant Howard, manager of Wairarapa Free Budget Advice Service, says the back-to-school costs can be hard on parents, especially when technology is added to the mix.

“Even primary students are asked to buy tablets, which for a lot of people is really hard,” Mr Howard said.

Uniforms I can organise, and fees I can always pay off, but the tablets …

Mr Howard said parents could be tempted to spend $300 or more on the mini computer devices, but “for a child of 6 or 7, what you can get for $80 to $90 is probably sufficient for that level of education”.

“I’ve noticed the variance in cost,” Mr Howard said.

“And with young children they break quite regularly. With my grandchildren, each year they’ve needed a new one because they’re either broken or have a cracked screen.”

Unfortunately, peer pressure can also come into the equation, Mr Howard added.

“A person with a $400 tablet is always going to tease someone with a $90 one … and there is theft, that sort of scenario does happen – and arguments, some children are very mean.

The technology means teachers can ask children to “go online and learn”.

“I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. It’s just extra costs.”

Cheaper machines, Mr Howard said “can do the same things, at different levels”.

Other cost hassles at this time of year include school uniforms, and most – though not all – have secondhand uniform options.

Mr Howard said if parents are having trouble meeting school costs, schools can often help.

“Most schools accept small regular payments (for uniforms),” Mr Howard said.

For beneficiaries or low income people, Work and Income can assist. That depends on individuals.”

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Wairarapa rents are set for a rise in February because of “our booming market” the property market, putting added pressure on households, Wairarapa Free Budget Advice Service manager Grant Howard said.

“That’s put an added burden on. Even if it’s just $10, the rent subsidy (increase) will be $3 or $4, so that’s $6 or $7 roughly down a week after that rent increase.

“Across the board in February, rents are going up. Unfortunately that trend continues with houses around 20% above GV (in Masterton),” Mr Howard said.

“For young people, owning their own home is harder and harder … that’s happening nationally.”

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