August is generally the month for organising children starting or going back to school. For many parents it is a worry – and the expense is top of that worry list.
There are many recent surveys including Barnardos’ latest, enunciating the ever increasing back to school costs in both national and secondary school levels.
While for those with little income there is some financial support, virtually all parents still find it tough especially if they haven't budgeted for it…so here are 6 tips that you might find helpful
Perhaps you have last year’s back to school budget plan [Ed: Serious kudos if you do!]. This could be useful to gauge how much more you may need for this year. You may have even had an amount put by each month in a regular saver account for this very purpose (best regular saver – saving between €100 and €1,000 each month for an agreed 12 months, withdrawals any time - is EBS’s 3%...).
If you have not, now may be a time to start thinking of next year. The money has to come from somewhere…
2. Write a list
Check what you have and write then what you need – see what can still be used or passed down to another child if you have one. You could, of course, sell last year’s books before you buy the new ones.
3. The uniform
You may be forced to buy from the school’s supplier. Check to see if it is possible to go outside these suppliers – you may, for instance, be allowed to apply a crest on your externally bought school clothes. If you feel the school supplier is too expensive, don’t be afraid to tell the Board of Management.
Here are a few more useful ideas :
a. Ask your school or other parents to see if there is a second-hand uniform sale planned. Some websites or local groups on social media sites also sell second-hand uniforms.
b. Keep an eye out for special promotions in shops on school uniforms, such as '3 for 2 offers' on items such as shirts and polo shirts.
Buy two packs to use straight away and a pack in a larger size for later when your child has grown.
c. Try to shop around for generic items of clothing like grey skirts or trousers. The larger chain stores can be good for these, but remember that stocks don't last when demand is high so it’s a good idea to buy early rather than waiting until just before the start of the new school year.
d. Some chain stores discount uniforms at the end of September or October, so you could buy a few pieces for your child for the following year in a larger size.
4. The books
Check out second-hand books. You can make big savings by buying second-hand school books as there are school book websites (e.g. www.schoolbooks.ie & www.schoolbooksireland.ie to name but two ) selling second-hand books who also allow you to sell your books through their websites.
If you are buying a second-hand school book make sure to check first if your school needs you to get a specific edition or if they have a book-lending scheme.
When buying books online, check if the retailer is also offering free book covering as this will save you time and money.
Label everything and go for quality. Items of clothing continually are lost or stolen so label everything – the more it stands out on your child’s tracksuit or jumper, the easier it is to identify. Buying cheap also does not necessarily work out that way in the long run. If it means the schoolbag lasts the full year rather than 6 months, it may be better to buy the more expensive bag.
6. School lunch
Review the school lunches. Instead of buying pre-made lunches or giving your child money to buy lunch, prepare it at home.
For more information click on John Lowe's profile above or on his website.