Parents cut back on food to pay back-to-school bills

It costs on average of €967 to send a child back to primary school and €1,474 for secondary school, with more than one in 10 parents cutting food bills in order to cover the costs.

An Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) study found the money needed to get youngsters ready for the new term in August and September has soared since 2012.

Three-quarters of parents told researchers they do not think schools are doing enough to keep costs down. However, they are doing more themselves to reduce the bills, as numbers shopping online for back-to-school items are up significantly to 60%, from just under a half a year ago.

The main reasons are to save money, with some citing the savings on petrol associated with shopping trips for school clothes and books. However, saving time and stress were also prominent reasons for online shopping.

In addition, parents are increasingly comfortable with buying generic items than branded goods which can be more expensive. Less than one-third said they feel pressurised to buy branded school supplies, something which affected 42% of those surveyed a year ago.

The credit union research found escalating price tags are run up on new uniforms and gym gear at an average of €257 a child, the so-called voluntary contribution to the school at about €113 and books at €145.

Bills also fly in for after-school care, extracurricular classes, lunches, school trips and transport.

The most expensive items on the list were uniforms for secondary school children at an average of €234.

ILCU chief executive Ed Farrell urged people to properly assess what they need, set a budget and stick to it.

“While it can be tedious, we would urge parents to shop around for the best value deals. Many of the major retailers will offer fantastic deals on uniforms and school supplies,” he said.

“Most importantly avoid using moneylenders. If you are considering a loan, make sure to visit your local credit union to see what is available to you.”

The credit union survey found almost one-third of parents get themselves into debt trying to pay the bills.

On average, parents borrowed €357, down slightly from last year by €3. And 14% of the mothers and fathers in debt over back-to-school costs said they have used a moneylender at one time to get the cash.

The survey of 1,000 adults in June also examined the knock-on effect, with two thirds of parents saying they sacrifice a family holiday to meet the costs.

Elsewhere, 13% of parents will save on food bills.

One third of parents this year said the back-to-school charges will have no adverse impact on them. Almost 80% of parents are now expected to make a voluntary contribution to the school.


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