The Morning Bulletin - - FRONT PAGE - STEPH ALLEN [email protected]­

THOUGH par­ents may be ea­ger to get their chil­dren out of the house and back into the class­room, the cost of do­ing so leaves many penny pinch­ing as the new school year draws closer.

Par­ents across Cen­tral Queens­land are scram­bling to make ends meet to keep up with in­creas­ingly ex­pen­sive book lists, sta­tionery and uni­form costs.

Rock­hamp­ton mother Re­becca Richard­son took ad­van­tage of the launch of Cen­tacare CQ’s School Savvy Pop-Up Shop yes­ter­day to nab her­self a cou­ple of bar­gains.

With the help of St Vin­cent de Paul, Life­line and lo­cal busi­nesses, Cen­tacare CQ has re­ceived dona­tions of sta­tionery sup­plies, pre-loved uni­forms and mon­e­tary dona­tions from the com­mu­nity to pro­vide cheaper al­ter­na­tives.

Ms Richard­son has three chil­dren, aged eight, 11 and 14 years, and said the cost of send­ing them back to school each year was huge.

“Es­pe­cially with high school. I’ve got one child in high school and an­other next year,” she said.

“Just for my old­est, we’ve got a $200 cal­cu­la­tor we have to buy. For one cal­cu­la­tor.

“It’s very, very ex­pen­sive to get them back to school.”

For one 96-page ex­er­cise book, Ms Richard­son nor­mally pays 50 cents to $1 at re­tail stores, how­ever at the pop-up shop she scored five books for $1.

For most pri­mary school stu­dents, there can be up to 14 note­books on a book list.

“It’s a big, big dif­fer­ence,” she said. “The uni­form (shirts) are $1 each and high school uni­forms are $40-plus.

“If any­one is strug­gling, this is def­i­nitely a way to be able to pre­pare your kids for school and get a few books to help out.”

Cen­tacare CQ pro­ject co-or­di­na­tor Anna Mor­ris said the morn­ing had been a big suc­cess, with about 100 thrifty par­ents pour­ing through the doors within the first hour.

“It’s been great to see,” she said. Cen­tacare Far North Queens­land ap­proached the Rock­hamp­ton of­fice after see­ing suc­cess in the School Savvy pro­gram for the past three years.

“We jumped on board and the feed­back has been that there’s a need for it,” Ms Mor­ris said.

From Jan­uary 14–18, Rock­hamp­ton and Yep­poon will host pop-ups, and from Jan­uary 17–18 Mount Mor­gan will too.

“There’s a fair few peo­ple say­ing this is a great idea and that they need this,” Ms Mor­ris said.

“Now that Christ­mas is gone, they’re start­ing to re­group and think about how they’re go­ing to man­age the start of the school year.

“Although it’s con­cern­ing to see there’s such a need in our com­mu­nity for that, we’d just like to be able to help them.”

Ac­cord­ing to Ms Mor­ris, the ris­ing costs of liv­ing and school sup­plies doesn’t just im­pact one de­mo­graphic – ev­ery­one is feel­ing the pinch.

“I don’t think you can neatly cat­e­gorise peo­ple into who needs and who doesn’t,” she said.

“House­holds with two in­comes are still strug­gling nowa­days.

“There’s a need for help and the ris­ing costs as­so­ci­ated with send­ing kids to school are hard enough but if you have mul­ti­ple kids on top of that, it can be­come quite un­man­age­able.”

An­other bar­gain in­cludes pen­cil cases for $4, in­clu­sive of all the ba­sics.

For high school stu­dents, ex­clud­ing a cal­cu­la­tor, the av­er­age cost of a pen­cil case is about $20.

Uni­forms are also sell­ing for $3 a branded item, whereas store-bought ones can get up to $35 for a polo shirt.

A lo­cal hair­dresser also at­tended the Rock­hamp­ton pop-up on Mon­day to pro­vide free ba­sic back-to-school trims for chil­dren.

The stores will be open un­til close date or un­til stocks run out.

Keep up­dated through Cen­tacare CQ’s Face­book page.

Pho­tos: Ta­mara MacKen­zie (Cen­tacare CQ), Al­lan Reinikka

BAR­GAIN HUNTERS: About 100 peo­ple turned up to nab a bar­gain at Rock­hamp­ton's School Savvy Pop-Up Shop yes­ter­day; IN­SET: Re­becca and Aliesha Richard­son get­ting their sup­plies.

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