Tip 1: Check what you have before you buy
Pull out everything you have at home, including uniforms, schoolbooks, sports gear and stationery. See what can still be used or passed on to another child. Check if you can sell last year’s books to make some money. Make sure you know exactly what you do and don’t need before you go shopping. It may be a bit of extra effort and time, but it will pay off!
Tip 2: Decide a budget
You also need to know how much you can afford to spend. The CCPC has a handy back-to-school budget planner on their consumer website, consumerhelp.ie, to plan ahead and work out how much you need to spend on back-to-school costs. If you’re not sure about the cost of school items, you could check with the school, look online or talk to other parents to get an idea.
Tip 3: Check out your options for school uniforms
Uniforms are one of the biggest back-to-school expenses. It can be worth checking with friends and neighbours for second-hand uniforms in good condition, especially items like school tracksuits or blazers.
If you have to buy a new uniform, check to see if you can buy the crest and uniform separately. If so, buy generic clothing from large shops or department stores to cut down costs. Many of them also offer deals at back-to-school time.
Each school decides their own school uniform policy. If your school’s policy is that you have to buy from a specific shop and you have concerns about the price or quality, you should let the school know. There is more information on how a school should choose a uniform supplier on the CCPC’s corporate website ccpc.ie.
Tip 4: Save on schoolbooks
You can save by buying second-hand schoolbooks. At soon as you get next year’s booklist, start keeping an eye out for second-hand books you need. It may be a bit more difficult to get some books second-hand, but don’t give up – for secondary schoolbooks you could save up to €20 per book buying second-hand copies.
Most second-hand bookshops also buy books you no longer need. You could also use Facebook to exchange books with other parents in your child’s school or local community. Before you buy, or swap, check to see if your school needs a certain edition of a book, or if they offer a book rental scheme.
When buying new schoolbooks, you should also compare prices between shops and online. While the individual prices of the books may differ very little from shop to shop, many shops offer deals or discounted book covering or delivery.
Tip 5: Shop wisely
Most school items – such as bags and shoes – are used five days a week and can get worn quickly. Spending a bit more on quality clothing and footwear will mean they will last a bit longer and reduce the need to replace them during the year.
Children grow quickly, buying items such as jumpers or coats in a size larger, will also help you get a bit longer out of uniforms. You can also check the hems of trousers or skirts to see if they can be let down if they’re just slightly too short for next year.
Tip 6: Stock up on stationery
Bulk buying stationery can be cheaper than buying items individually. There are usually offers at back-to-school time for bundles of copybooks, pens and pencils. If you can afford it, it might be worth stocking up. This will save you having to make extra stationery purchases during the school year.
Tip 7: Packed lunches
Homemade lunches can cut down on costs considerably, as well as being tastier and more nutritious. You can even get older kids involved in preparing their own healthy packed lunches, sticking to a budget! Bulk buying lunch ingredients can also save you money, but you need to check the expiry dates.
Tip 8: Plan for the future
Planning and saving for future school expenses will make them more manageable. Try to set aside a few euro each week for future expenses such as school trips and after-school activities.
A good tip is to keep a record of what you spent the previous year by keeping receipts for all your purchases and then divide the cost by 12. For example, if you spend €540 in total this year on school-related costs, divide it by 12 and you will get €45. Each month put away €45 into a savings account for next year’s back-to-school purchases. This will take the some of the stress out of the end of the summer.
Clodagh Coffey is Head of Consumer and Digital Communications with the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC).
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission has some handy tips to help you do your homework on back-to-school costs:
Coffey, C. (2017, August 14). 8 Back-to-School Saving Tips. Retrieved October 7, 2019, from https://www.rte.ie/lifestyle/living/2016/0802/806462-8-back-to-school-saving-tips/.