The Irish League of Credit Unions states in one of its latest surveys that 63% of parents report financial hardship with back-to-school costs.

Parents at the secondary school level spend an average of €1,491 per child - up €24 from last year. At the primary school level, spending has increased by €63, at €1,186 per child compared to €1,123 last year. The survey also suggests that almost one in four (24%) parents are drowning in debt to cover the costs. (ILCU back to school survey shows cost of sending child to secondary school now averaging €1,500, 2021)

The cost of books, activities children do, stationary, bags, voluntary contributions… it all adds up. It is actually huge so here are a few genuine Money Saving tips to make the most of your back-to-school budget:

1. The Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance (BTSCFA)

School uniforms and footwear are expensive for children attending school, so the BTSCFA helps you cover these costs. There may be a Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance available to you if you are:

Getting a social welfare payment including Working Family Payment, Back to Work Family Dividend and Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment or a Health Service Executive payment, or Taking part in an approved employment scheme (back to work scheme) or Taking part in a recognised education or training course, or Getting a Daily Expenses Allowance (formerly called Direct Provision Allowance) for a child in school (or for yourself if you are 18-22 and returning to full-time second-level education), or Involved in an Area Partnership Scheme, or Attending a FET (formerly Fás) or Fáilte Ireland training course. (from the citizen’s information website)

See if you qualify for any of these. In the past, you may not have qualified for help. However, this year certain rules have been altered, so it is worth taking the time to find out if you qualify now.

2. Buy used books

It is not necessary to have a book rental scheme at your school. Look for second-hand books online via Facebook groups, Adverts, and Done Deals to book shops that offer pre-owned sections. You can also save money by talking to a parent whose child is a year ahead of yours and purchasing as many books as possible that match your list from them.

3. Take the Time to Shop Around

Use your network of parents to find the best bargain, if you are new to school shopping this year, there are Facebook groups for moms and dads where you can ask advice for what's really needed and where to go.

4. Make sure you know what you need

Identify exactly what every child needs, and create a list. Bring your shopping list with you and stick to it. When shopping, leave the kids home so you are more likely to stay on track.

Kids don’t need a new school bag or lunch box every year so make sure you re-use items from last year.

5. Refurbished devices are worth considering

Schools are increasingly using iPads and tablets as part of the curriculum, and it has become an essential purchase. You can opt for refurbished second-hand devices instead of a new one if the school doesn't provide them.

6. Buying in bulk is easier than you think

Buying in bulk can seem tedious, but if you stock up on the things like stationery, you'll make great savings and be sure you won't run out.

7. The After-School Snack Costs

If you plan ahead for after school hunger pangs, you can save hundreds of euros over the course of the year. 

Prepared at home, packed lunches are not only cheaper than store-bought lunches - but they are also often more nutritious. A little time spent planning your family’s weekday lunch menu before you do the shopping can reduce food wastage and save you money.