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Planning for back-to-school costs

Returning to school also means planning ahead to meet the costs of getting ready for a new school year. If possible, try to plan early and spread the costs over the summer months.

Follow the steps below to help you plan now for back-to-school costs.  

Make a back-to-school shopping list  

Make a list of what you need to buy to get your child or children back to school. The school uniform and book list will be given out at the end of each school year. Think about costs for each child like: 

  • Books 
  • Stationery 
  • Uniforms (including shoes, jackets, tracksuits or other physical education equipment)
  • Costs to be paid to the school (photocopying costs, arts and crafts, voluntary contributions) 

Prioritise your list. If you have a limited amount of money to spend, work your way through, numbering items in order of importance. Think about if there are any costs you could cut, reduce or get financial support with.  

Add up the cost of your list.  Look at each individual item again to see if you can reduce any costs.  Check if you can get any help towards the costs. 

Get help towards back-to-school costs 

You may be eligible for financial support with back-to-school costs. The following 5 schemes offer help towards the cost of going to school:  

Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance
Details Qualifying criteria How to applyGet more information 
Helps you pay for uniforms and footwear for children going to school.  
Rates:  
€150 per child aged 4-11 on or before 30 September 
 €275 per child aged 12-22 on or before 30 September and in second level education. 
To be eligible, you must:
Be getting certain social welfare benefits or payments for training, employment schemes or adult education  
Have a total household income below a certain amount 
If you have not got a letter regarding the allowance from the Department of Social Protection by 6 July, you will need to apply for Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance online on www.mywelfare.ieRead more on citizensinformation.ie 
If you are having problems applying online, you can contact the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance section on: 071 919 3318 or 0818 07 2000.  
Book rental scheme
Details Qualifying criteria How to apply Get more information 
Funding under the Free Education Scheme is available to primary and secondary schools to help with the cost of school books. You can get information about the operation of the scheme in your child’s school from the school principal. 

Contact the principal of your child’s school to apply for help.  

The principal has discretion in deciding which students are most in need. 

You can find out more in the Guide for Parents: Text Book Rental Scheme in Schools


Exemption from exam fees 
Details Qualifying criteriaHow to apply Get more information
If you have a child taking Junior or Leaving Cert, you will be asked to pay exam fees. If you or your child holds a current medical card, they are exempt from exam fees. Enter the medical card details on the fee payment form and return to the school before the required date.   Read more on citizensinformation.ie 

Contact the State Examinations Commission on 090 644 2700 or visit examinations.ie  
School Transport Scheme for Primary and Post Primary Schools
Details Qualifying criteria How to apply Get more information 
Bus Eireann provides reduced prices for children using their services to travel to and from school.   
Children with a medical card can apply for an exemption. 
There are special provisions for children with special needs.
Rates 
Primary school transport:  €100 per child  
Post-primary school transport: € 350 per child  
Primary  
Your child must live more than 3.2 km from the school. 
Post-primary   
Your child must live more than 4.2 km from the school.
Apply online. The closing date for applications is the last Friday in April for the coming school year. Only new pupils need apply. 

You only need to register once and Bus Eireann will contact you each year when it is time to pay the school transport charge.   
You can find out more on Bus Eireann’s website

Remote Areas Boarding Grant 
Details Qualifying criteriaHow to apply Get more information 
If you live in a remote area, you may qualify for a boarding grant under the Remote Areas Boarding Grant Scheme 
Rates
The maximum grant available is €4,947 per year.
You must: 
Live 4.8 km away from the school and in an area outside the range of public transport services to the school 
Be unable to get a place in a suitable school within 25km of your home 
 If your child is starting school in September, you need to apply before the end of April each year.   
You will need to fill in, sign and submit an application form to the Department of Education 
Read more in the FAQs  Contact the Schools Division Financial Section on 090 648 3957 

Support from community organisations 

Voluntary and community organisations offer support to families who are in financial hardship.  The Society of St. Vincent De Paul has a range of supports for people who are living on very low incomes. They may be able to give some help towards the cost of essential household items, such as food, clothing, heating or other household bills either once-off or for a short period of time. They can also help towards the costs of education. 

Make a back-to-school budget plan 

If you are getting help with books or the Back To School Clothing and Footwear Scheme, then work out how much money is still needed.  

Check if you can afford to cover your costs from your income. If not, look for any possible savings

Start a savings plan 

Calculate how many weeks are left from now until back to school. Divide the total expected cost by the number of weeks. This is what you have to save each week.  Use our page on how to build up savings for more tips and advice. 

If you have been saving a bit during the year 

If you have already been able to put aside some money over the year to meet the cost of back to school, well done. Check to see if it will be enough to cover the costs you planned for or do you need to save a bit more over the coming weeks.  

If you have nothing saved 

If you have not been able to put aside any money, or if what you have saved is not enough, then you have a choice. You will either have to cut the money you intend to spend again, until your savings can cover it, or you may decide to borrow.   

Contact MABS before borrowing to see what options are available to you.  Read more advice on things to think about  before you borrow.   

Shop smartly and cut the costs  

Always do a lot of research before you buy anything. When it is time to shop, shop around for the best value.  

Uniforms 

Check if your school allows non-branded uniforms. You can usually buy these from various stores and then use an ‘iron-on’ or ‘sew-on’ school crest.  

Look out in the shops for special promotions on uniforms. Some may offer discounts if you buy early in the summer.  

Check if the school runs a second-hand uniform and book sale.  

Ask friends and family if they want to organise a uniform exchange or to exchange the books on the reading lists. 

Books and stationery 

Ask your local book shop if they offer instalment plans and pay for the cost of books over the summer weeks. 

Copybooks, pens and pencils are cheaper when you buy in large quantities. Check if family or a friend will split the costs with you if you buy together. 

Re-use stationery items such as folders, files and pockets. 

Other costs and the voluntary contribution 

Check with the principal on other costs that come up over the year and plan for them. These can include arts and crafts, photocopying, sports and school trips. 

Remember the voluntary contribution is voluntary – speak with the principal if you have any difficulty meeting this cost.  

Get more help from MABS 

If you’re struggling to manage your money or to make ends meet, or you feel like borrowing more is the only solution, help is available. Contact MABS.

Find out more: 

Visit CCPC’s Money Hub for comprehensive information about savings and other personal finance topics. 

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