It might feel like the summer holidays have only just begun, but now is the time to start planning for the new school year. Back-to-school time is always an expensive period for parents and you may be worried about meeting the costs. Take a look at our money-saving tips:

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.

Tip 2: Figure out a budget
You also need to know how much you can afford to spend. Use our Back to School Budget Planner 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 what your options are 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.

Tip 4: Save on schoolbooks
You can save by buying second-hand school books. 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. Schooldays.ie has a facility for buying and selling second hand books (http://www.schooldays.ie/articles/second-hand-school-books)

When buying new school books, 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.

Some schools require students to have iPads instead of books. If this is the case for your child, you should think about how you are going to meet the cost. You should also contact the school and see if there is a scheme in place to help with the cost.

Tip 5: Buy quality
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.

Tip 6: Label Uniforms
There is nothing more frustrating for a parent who has spent considerable money on purchasing a new uniform at the beginning of the school year than for their child to announce after a few weeks or months that they have lost their jumper or jacket. By Labelling the uniform and including a telephone number you considerably increase the odds of the lost item being returned. Put your home number on the label rather than your child’s mobile number – in this way your child’s mobile number will not inadvertently get into the wrong hands.

Clothing allowances
Check if you qualify for the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance. The scheme helps towards the cost of uniforms and footwear for school children, and operates from 1 June to 30 September each year. It is run by the local office of the Health Service Executive as part of the Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme. Your local office of the Health Service Executive will decide if you qualify for this payment.

Tip 7: 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 8: Plan for the future
Planning and saving for future school expenses will make them more manageable. Try to set aside a few euros each week for future expenses such as school trips and after-school activities. Talk to us about opening a School Savings Account using a direct debit facility to put a little away every week.

If you are under pressure for Back-to-School expenses talk to Rathkeale & District Credit Union first about our 6% Education Loan. We are significantly CHEAPER than a Bank Student Loan or Door-Step Loan or using your Credit Cards. Click here to see the comparison tables.

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