Back to School - Too Early to Plan?

3rd June 2020

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by Liz, North Dublin MABS

With the ongoing uncertainty of when schools - both primary and secondary - are going to re-open, it can be hard to get into the mindset of planning. It might seem like ages away , but planning now will make purchasing books, uniforms and other essential supplies a little easier. Now that summer is here and the kids are off, it is a good time to plan for the school year in September.

Continue reading for tips on how to plan for schools returning in September.

Financial Supports

First and foremost, check and see if you are entitled to the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance. Like many Social Welfare Payments, this payment is means tested. Applications open from the 1st June to the 30th September. You can apply through www.mywelfare.ie.

If you don’t have an account or, are having difficulties accessing your account, call the Citizens Information Helpline on 0761 07 4000. They will help you through the process. If you are entitled to this payment, you will receive €150 per child for children aged 4-11 and €275 per child for children in secondary school aged 12-22 on or before 30 September 2020. Children aged between 18 and 22 years must be returning to full-time second-level education in a recognised school or college in the autumn of 2020.

Make a list of what your child needs sooner rather than later. MABS has an excellent ‘Back to School Costs’ factsheet which is available to download here. This factsheet gives examples of how you can lay out each item and allocate costs, such as school costs for photocopying/stationery or lockers.

School Uniforms

Does your child need a uniform? I have two children in school. One is starting his journey into primary and one is going into third year. Two very big steps, for two young men! Luckily, my youngest does not need a uniform. However, he is growing extremely fast and will need new runners and basic comfortable wear for September.

With the shops still closed, I have turned to online shopping. You can find all sorts of deals representing good value. Some sites are offering free delivery with no minimum spend, while others have special offers such as 2 for the price of 1. If you can afford to avail of 2 for 1 offers on uniform items like shirts/blouses or comfortable basics, it may be no harm to get the next size up too in case of a growth spurt. Beware, only buy what you need - deals can be tempting. It’s important to ask yourself if the offer represents good value and whether you need it. Another advantage of buying early is that you have a better choice of sizes and a higher chance of getting everything you need. A last-minute rush can sometimes turn out to be costly.

Also, ask around. Has anyone in your area’s son or daughter recently graduated from 6th class or 6th year? Can their uniform be passed on? Some schools organise this too, so no harm in asking.

School Books

Books can turn out to be a big expense, especially for secondary level students. The MABS factsheet offers some helpful pointers. Such as checking if the school have a book rental scheme? Do they run or, offer a second-hand book sale? Does the local book shop have instalment/payment plans? In terms of stationary, can the previous year’s folders and poly pockets be re-used? Can you buy stationary in bulk with a friend (it can often be cheaper).

Lots of schools have introduced the use of tablets for their students. Again, if your child needs one, check with the school to see if they can source one for you at discounted rates. Check to see if the local credit union offer good interest rates for the purchase of tablets. If you are struggling financially, schools may have access to funding but, this will vary from school to school. Talking to the principal would be the best place to start.

Outings and Sundries

Though it may be furthest from our minds, school outings and sundries (projects, etc) can also add substantial costs to parents. If you’ve been able to maximise your income and find you have a little extra to spare – why not put it away so when/if the time comes around you won’t find yourself scrambling to find the money, if it’s not needed then you have a little extra in the rainy day fund! It’s a win-win!

School Contact

I would recommend keeping in contact with your child’s school. Many schools have set up Twitter accounts. Some may have an active text/mailing list. It’s good to keep checking the school website for updates.

This new school year is going to present its own set of challenges, but planning ahead and chipping away at the ‘back-to-school’ list can help to make it easier. As the saying goes “failing to plan, is a plan to fail.”

Hope you all have a lovely summer and, enjoy this beautiful weather while we have it.

Help is available. Money Advisers from MABS are available by phone, email and live chat to answer any personal money and debt questions you might have. We might not be able to meet face-to-face now, but rest assured we have your back.