With inflation raging and likely to reach 10% by Christmas, many parents still worry about finding money to send their children back to school – and that expense is top of their worry list. But as Dire Straits once sang “Why worry ?” John Lowe of Money Doctors.ie gives tips on how to beat those back to school blues..

There are many 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 have nt budgeted for it…

  1. Budget … perhaps you have last year’s back to school budget plan. 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 € 1000 each month for an agreed 12 months.. one withdrawal allowed per annum – is Bank of Ireland’s 0.25%…so it’s more the discipline) 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 :
    1. 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.
    2. 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 straightaway and a pack in a larger size for later when your child has grown.
    3. 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
    4. 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.
    5. 2nd hand uniform clothes shops or even certain charity shops should not be dismissed either – apart from helping out the charity, they really do have some great bargains.
  4. Check out second-hand books.. you can make big savings by buying second-hand schoolbooks as there are schoolbook 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 schoolbook 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.
  5. 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. Review school lunches… instead of buying premade lunches or giving your child money to buy lunch, prepare it at home plus tap water in that empty water bottle.

Sometimes it pays have a quiet hour or two and just think about how you could economise or prioritise for the sake of the whole family.

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