Back to School – Never Too Early to Plan

banner for post on back to school

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! 

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 20th June to 30th September 2022 

BTSCFA is paid automatically to some families. If you are one of these families, you’ll receive a letter saying that you’ll receive your payment automatically by the 20th June. If not, you can apply on the website. 

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 €160 per child for children aged 4-11 and €285 per child for children in secondary school aged 12-22 (on or before 30 September 2021). 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 2022. 

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 offers 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 

Books can turn out to be a big expense, especially for secondary-level students. Have you heard of the book rental scheme? Our back-to-school costs page has handy information about this. We suggest checking if the school has their own book rental scheme. Do they run or offer a second-hand book sale? Does the local book shop have instalment/payment plans?  

In terms of stationary, can the previous year’s folders and poly pockets be re-used? Can you buy stationery in bulk with a friend (it can often be cheaper)? All good questions to ask yourself, which might help you save money in the long run! 

A lot of schools have introduced the use of tablets for their students. Again, if your child needs one, check with the school to see if they can source one for you at discounted rates. Maybe the local credit union will offer good interest rates for the purchase of tablets? But only borrow if you absolutely have to. 

If you are struggling financially, schools may have access to funding, but this will vary from school to school. Talking to the principal is a good place to start. 

Outings and Sundries 

Though it may be furthest from our minds, school outings and sundries (such as projects, 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 

I would 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’ group 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, WhatsApp 086 035 3141 or find the contact details for your local office.