Ireland’s Guide To Money And Living

Buying for back to school

Back to school

August is upon us, and that means the school term is just around the corner. Unfortunately, this can be quite an expensive time for parents who must fork out on school uniforms, books, equipment and other items for the year ahead.

According to the Irish League of Credit Unions, one in four parents will be forced to deny their children some basic school items, with the average spend in the back to school period rising to €1,209.

We’ve got a few tips on how you can make the back to school period less financially stressful.


The Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance can be a big help for parents or guardians in receipt of certain social welfare payments or who are enrolled on certain education or training courses. Your child must be aged between 4-17 before the closing date of September 30th 2017 – those aged between 18 and 22 must be in full-time second level education at a recognised institution.

Though those who qualify automatically don’t have to apply and should receive a letter from the Department of Social Protection, others must apply and will be subject to certain restrictions. The allowance for eligible children aged between 4 and 11 is €125, and €250 for those between 12 and 22.

Wardrobe update

Make a list of the clothing your child needs for the school year – uniforms, PE gear, shoes, ties etc. Hand-me downs from older siblings or relatives could reduce the need for brand-new items, or check with neighbours and friends who have children going to the same school.

If you’re buying new clothes, consider getting one size bigger to accommodate their next growth spurt. And keep an eye out for uniform offers at Lidl or Aldi which are generally much lower than clothing stores, while Tesco can also prove cost-effective.

Label, label, label

Make sure everything your child brings with them to school is labelled with a name and telephone number. Kids can easily misplace jumpers, bags or pencil cases, so a simple label could save you from buying replacements down the line!

Careful debt

According to the Irish League of Credit Unions, 29% of parents believe they will have to borrow money to fund back to school purchases this year, a 2% reduction on 2016. The average amount borrowed is €345.

If you do have to borrow money, avoid moneylenders who offer short-term loans with exorbitantly high interest rates like the plague. For example, a loan of €350 with one such moneylender, paid back over the course of a year, attracts an interest rate of 157.3% APR – you’ll pay €196 in interest alone at €10.50 per week. That might seem like a small repayment, but there’s no doubt that you could put that €196 to good use elsewhere.

Credit unions are ideal for taking out small loans, with a maximum interest rate of 12.68% APR, and no admin or transaction charges, while your interest is reduced as you repay the amount. For example, a personal loan for €400 with Cabra Credit Union, paid back over 12 months, attracts an APR of 7.79% and a weekly repayment of €7.99. In total, you would pay €15.42 in interest.

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.