Back to School – Never Too Early to Plan

Cover image for blog post. Text reads "Back To School - Never to early to plan". Center image holds three children walking away with backpacks on.

The year is flying by, and although the school holidays are imminent, it will be September again before we know it. It might seem like ages away, but planning now will make affording school essentials that little bit easier. Planning now and starting early can help to spread the cost and take advantage of any ‘early bird’ special offers.

Now that “summer” is here and the kids are off or finishing up, it is a good time to plan for the next school year. Some of you have already started, which is great to see!

Keep reading for tips on how to plan for the school return in September.

Financial Supports

First and foremost, check and see if you are entitled to the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance (BTSCFA). It’s important to note that, like many Social Welfare Payments, this payment is means-tested. Applications open from the 8th June to 30th  September.

BTSCFA is paid automatically to some families. If you are one of these families, you’ll receive a letter or notification on your account saying that you’ll receive your payment automatically from the week commencing 10th July. However, if not, you can apply on .The Department of Social Protection is providing a dedicated phone line – 071 919 3318 / 0818 111 113 or email with any queries.

If you don’t have an account or are having difficulties accessing your account, call the Citizens Information Helpline on 0818 07 4000. They will help you through the process.

If you are entitled to this payment, you will receive €260 per child for children aged 4-11 and €385 per child for children in secondary school aged 12-22 (on or before 30 September 2022). Children aged between 18 and 22 years must be returning to full-time second-level education in a recognised school or college in the autumn of 2023.

Next step is to make a list of what your child needs (sooner rather than later!) Here are some of our top tips for back-to-school costs.

School Uniforms

Does your child need a uniform? I have two children in school. One is starting senior infants, and one is going into 5th year, so we’re starting to think about college for him.  Luckily, my youngest does not need a uniform. However, he is growing extremely fast and will need new runners and basic comfortable wear for September.

Keep an eye out for any special offers, such as 2 for the price of 1 or a limited-time discount. If you can afford to avail of 2 for 1 offer on uniform items, like shirts/blouses or comfortable basics, it may be no harm to get the next size up (in case of a summer growth spurt!)

Beware, only buy what you need – deals can be tempting. Keep a list of what you’ve bought so you don’t go buying double! It is important to ask yourself if the offer represents good value and whether you need it.

Another advantage of buying early is that you have a better choice of sizes and a higher chance of getting everything you need. A last-minute rush can sometimes turn out to be costly.

Top tip: Ask around. Has anyone in your area’s son or daughter recently graduated from 6th class or 6th year? Can their uniform be passed on? Some schools organise this too, so there’s no harm in asking.

School Books

From September 2023, there will be no charges for schoolbooks to parents of children who attend recognised schools, including special schools.  This includes workbooks and copybooks. These books will be loaned to each child by the school for the school year. It should be kept in good condition so it can be reused the following year/s.
There may be a need to purchase some additional or supporting items for use at school. However, the big expense of schoolbooks will reduce this cost substantially.

My Little Library initiative

This initiative is running again this year. Which offers a free book bag with storybooks for children and supportive information for parents for all children who are starting school in September 2023.

The aim of My Little Library is to promote reading and story time and as an introduction to your local library. To find out more, visit Libraries Ireland – My Little Library or your local library.


Outings and Sundries

Though it may be furthest from our minds, school outings and sundries (such as projects and school trips) can also add substantial costs to parents. If you’ve been able to maximise your income and find you have a little extra to spare – why not put it away so when/if the time comes around, you won’t find yourself scrambling to find the money. If it’s not needed, then you have a little extra in the rainy-day fund! It’s a win-win!

School Contact

We recommend keeping in contact with your child’s school. Many schools have set up Twitter accounts or WhatsApp groups for parents of children in the same class. Some may have an active text/mailing list. It’s good to keep checking the school website for updates.

Top Tip: Private parents’ groups might be available to join on social media. These can be a great source of helpful information and an opportunity to take advantage of hand-me-downs.

Planning ahead and chipping away at the ‘back-to-school’ list now can help to relieve the pressure. It will let you enjoy your summer knowing you’ve taken control. As the saying goes, “failing to plan is a plan to fail.”

Hope you all have a lovely summer and enjoy some beautiful weather (we hope!)

If you have a query for one of our advisers or are struggling with your budget or back-to-school costs, you can call the MABS National Helpline on 0818 07 2000 Monday to Friday, from 9am to 8pm or find the contact details for your local office.


Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure this information is current and correct. The details of each case can be unique. As a result, the outcome can be different to what has been described in this blog.

Note: We welcome references to and use of the content in this blog. However, please reference MABS and link said content if you choose to do so.