Ireland’s Guide To Money And Living

Surviving back to school

Back to school

Several weeks ago, the Irish Examiner reported that some parents are cutting back on food in order to afford the long list of items their child(ren) requires once the new school term begins. According to research recently conducted by the Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU), annual school costs have increased to €967 for primary school children, and €1,474 for those in second level.

“Covering the considerable costs of school has become very challenging for many families around the country. 80% of parents feel that the cost of sending their children back to school is a significant financial burden with 67% stating that these costs have a negative impact on household bill payments and family plans. While it can be tedious, we would urge parents to shop around for the best value deals. Many of the major retailers will offer fantastic deals on uniforms and school supplies,” said Ed Farrell, CEO, ILCU.

So what steps can you take to ease the financial pressures?

Stick on a label

If you’re going to fork out on often pricey uniforms, make sure your kids come back with it each day! If you add a label with a name and telephone number, it could save you buying a replacement should they lose it.

Keep an eye out for quality

The pencil case I bought (or at least picked out) in my first of second level lasted me through six years of secondary school, and another four years at third level, and was only a little more expensive than the cheaper alternatives. Spend a little more on items such as pencil cases and backpacks, as some cheap items may fall apart quicker, particularly if they’re carrying hefty items like schoolbooks.

School run

If they don’t take the bus, dropping the kids to school can be an expensive jaunt when you tot up the yearly fuel bill. Why not check with parents living locally to develop a car pool arrangement – alternating mornings and evenings, or weeks.

Shop around

It might be oft-repeated advice, but don’t do your whole back to school shopping in the one retailer, as you could save by simply walking across the street. Dealz, for example, sells a 300-page refill pad for €1.50, while a 320-page pad retails at Eason for €2.99.

Helping hand

If you haven’t received it automatically, check if you qualify for the Department of Social Protection’s Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance (BSCFA). Running between June 1st and September 30th, certain conditions apply, with application forms available online.

“A significantly larger number of parents have said that they will do their back to school shopping online in order to cut costs. Remember to check what you have left over from last year and also check with parents of older children who may have uniform items or books that they no longer need that may be usual to you,” the ILCU’s Ed Farrell added. “Make a list of everything you need, set a budget and stick to it. Most importantly avoid using moneylenders. If you are considering a loan, make sure to visit your local credit union to see what is available to you.”

When not writing about all things personal finance, You & Your Money's editor Conor Forrest enjoys reading, football and getting lost in an ocean of Wikipedia articles.