Last month Barnardos released very worrying findings from a survey completed by over 1,750 parents concerning returning to school, anxieties around COVID-19 and how some parents are really struggling to find money to cover back-to-school costs.
Barnardos announced a significant proportion of parents were cutting back on bills, taking out loans from a credit union or bank while others borrowed from family and friends or more worryingly reached out to money lenders.
The survey found the essential cost of sending a child back to school was decreasing; however, the cost remains substantial. It found the average price of the basics needed for a senior infant to return to school later this month is €330. In comparison, parents of a first-year pupil will be forking out on average €735.
Some of the costs of returning to school are inevitable, but there are some things you can do to help save money a lot of money if times are tough.
Buying a school uniform is one of the biggest back to school expenses for families, especially when in most cases, you can only buy from one or two retailers if branded. It pays to shop around for the best value and quality uniform. If your child’s school supply crests, consider buying a generic jumper or cardigan and sew the crest on yourself (or ask nana!). If your school has a generic uniform that can be purchased in supermarkets, it still pays to shop around for the best price.
Have you considered asking the school have they any second-hand uniforms? Many parents, including myself, give in uniforms that no longer fit but are in excellent condition. Alternatively, ask around in your community or keep an eye on social media groups because there’s a considerable chance a parent in your locality has a uniform in the back of a wardrobe gathering dust. Never be too proud to ask.
When buying a new uniform, consider buying trousers or skirts that will grow with your child. For example, look for adjustable waistbands and check the hems to see if they can be let down. It might cost an extra euro or two this year, but you will thank yourself next after Easter or maybe, even next summer. There’s nothing like getting two years out of a pair of trousers, trust me.
A majority of schools have a book rental scheme which takes a tremendous amount of pressure off parents but for those who don’t have this privilege consider buying pre-used books. When you get your booklist, ask your child’s school, can they recommend stores or sites that sell second-hand. Be frugal, search online on selling pages and Facebook groups too but also, check your local charity shops. You will be surprised at what you might find, and you might even sell your child’s school books from last year.
Shop with a list and set a spending limit
Whatever you do, don’t hit the shops without a school list; otherwise, you might buy unnecessary items or overspend on extra shirts or stationary. Impulse buying is one of the most significant setbacks when it comes to back to school. You need to stick to your list to save money. This way you won’t get carried away and keep spending money you don’t have.
Use your noggin
Does your child need a new school bag? Will their lunch box and beaker do another year? Does their coat still fit them, and what about their shoes? Let’s face it, kids simply want to get back to school, it has been a long few months, and they want to see their friends and chances are they probably won’t care what’s on their feet when they do. Re-use and repurpose where possible.
Other things to consider
If you have fallen upon hard times, get in touch with your child’s school and tell them. Some schools work with local bookstores and might be able to offer you a voucher towards the cost or in some cases a discount. Alternatively, get in touch with St Vincent De Paul who may be able to help give the back-to-school support you need.