The burden of a new school year combined with Christmas debt is putting many families under stress, according to a major financial and budgeting helpline.
Staff at Money Talks say they've had their busiest week ever as parents face up to the cost of getting their children ready for class.
For one Auckland mum, figuring out what the kids already have and what they still need is a headache as she turns her attention to the new school year.
Marea Hetaraka said, "Bags, shoes - those are the things they need on the first day so that goes at the top priority".
She has four children and expects to spend more than $1000 to get them ready for the new school year.
One of the biggest expenses is a new school uniform for her eldest.
"He needs a senior uniform: the shirt; button-up shirt; different shorts and pants, too; winter and summer uniform; the sport uniform, too."
Manurewa's Rowandale School principal, Karl Vasau, said, "They've just come off a massive Christmas time where a lot of our families are celebrating together and trying to get their children the presents and the food that every parent wants, so it would be a very trying time for a lot of our parents".
"They'll go to school, you know, like, not even realising the stress that I’ve just gone through to get there," Ms Hetaraka said.
Money Talks says last week was its busiest on record.
Money Talks' Tim Barnett said, "It's partly a combination of pretty tough periods. That means we're dealing with hundreds of calls every day".
Some families are foregoing quality food in order to cope.
"So you're picking up noodles, you're picking up pastas, you're picking up two packs of $10 minces," Ms Hetaraka said.
"They've gone to bed before without tea."
The Government's pledge to replace pupil donations with a payment to schools of $150 per student would help ease pressure on parents, but it's currently unknown when it will come into effect.
However, Mr Vasau hopes it'll be soon.
"That's a great step in the right direction, because it can offer opportunities for schools to stop asking for money," he said.