MAKING CENTS: Budget now for school and don’t learn hard way

IT IS six weeks until schools reopen, but parents are already bracing themselves for the expense, writes Gráinne McGuinness

A survey published last week by the Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) estimates an average cost of €967 to send a child to primary school, rising to €1,474 for secondary school. Parents should plan and manage their spending carefully to minimise stress.

Everyone knows that books and uniforms must be bought, but there are many other, less obvious expenses, and an unexpected one in September can make a mess of a budget.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) have a back to school budget planner on their website, www.consumerhelp.ie.

It lists the many other costs, from voluntary school contributions to sports kit, and will give parents an overview of their children’s school expenses.

The major retailers know that parents want to spread the costs and most are selling uniforms now, including Dunnes Stores and Marks & Spencer.

Debenhams’ school-uniform range is included in their current sale, with 20% off most items. The Lidl uniform range goes on sale on July 21 and includes leather school shoes for both boys and girls, for €6.99 per pair. Aldi’s school range has been in shops since July 14, with socks, vests, and briefs at €2.49 a pack.

Retailers have long been a part of the uniform market, but booklists have remained with specialist suppliers.

Tesco is looking to change that, with the launch of its new Clubcard partnership with Schoolbooks.ie. The offer, available from Monday, July 25, gives shoppers the option to double their Tesco Clubcard vouchers through Clubcard Boost, meaning that for every €2.50, €5, €7.50 or more received in vouchers, shoppers can get €5, €10, €15 and more off their purchases at Schoolbooks.ie.

To sweeten the deal, Schoolbooks.ie is offering parents the option of a further 12.5% discount on their total order or free covers for their school books. Shoppers simply select their preferred option when checking-out online.

Many schools operate book-rental schemes, but if your child’s school doesn’t, then use Facebook to set up an informal exchange with parents of older and younger children.

If you are borrowing to pay for school expenses, the CCPC remind parents to shop around for the cheapest credit; they have a loan-comparison tool on their website. They also suggest speaking to your local credit union, as does ILCU CEO, Ed Farrell.

“Most importantly, avoid using moneylenders,” Farrell said on publication of the ICLU survey. “If you are considering a loan, make sure to visit your local credit union to see what is available to you.”

If parents are struggling financially and loans aren’t an option, there is further help available.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVP) will assist with back-to-school expenses, depending on individual circumstances.

“Supporting families with education costs is a major part of our work,” said SVP spokesman, Jim Walsh.

SVP contact numbers can be found in community centres, churches, etc. Their website, www.svp.ie, carries a list of regional offices; families can contact their nearest office to arrange a visit.

All calls and visits are treated in strictest confidence.

Parents in receipt of certain social welfare payments, or taking part in training, employment, or adult education schemes may be eligible for the back-to-school clothing and footwear allowance (BSCFA).

Many BSCFA payments are automated, but if you haven’t received a letter about it and feel you may be eligible, you can get more information about income limits, and how to apply, at www.citizensinformation.ie.

The allowance is €100 per child for children aged four-11 and €200 per child over 12.

DEAL OF THE WEEK

To promote the use of public transport during the summer holidays, for a period of two weeks all child Leap card holders can travel free on any Leap card service. The free fortnight runs from July 25 to August 7.

The free travel will automatically apply when using a child Leap card on eligible services. These include most Dublin Bus scheduled services, all Luas services, all Dart services and all commuter rail services in Dublin’s short hop zone. It also includes Bus Éireann services where Leap card validators are available. This includes Bus Éireann services in Dublin and surrounding counties and Bus Éireann services in Cork City, Limerick City, Galway City, and Waterford City.

Any child Leap card can be used to avail of this free travel promotion , but for those who don’t yet have one, a limited stock of free 4-15 child Leap cards is available from bus stations in all cities mentioned above and at Connolly, Heuston and Pearse train stations.


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