Preparing your pocket for the new school term is just as important as preparing your children. Pinching pennies while re-using old clothes can save you a small fortune, writes Charlie Weston
THE cost of getting children ready to return to school is a sure way to drain money from a family budget.
Little wonder that the fast approaching school season is probably greeted with all the enthusiasm of a barbeque on a wet and windy day.
With books, clothing and a list of other miscellaneous expenses, it is no wonder the start of school year drives fear into the hearts of parents.
With children under pressure (real and imaginary) to be seen in the latest cool "gear", the price tag can really add up.
We have enlisted the help of Frank Conway of Irish Mortgage Corporation and debt advisory firm CredyCare to come up with ways families can save money on back-to-school expenses.
Set a spending plan
Setting a spending plan is key to maintaining control over your finances for the upcoming school year. In fact, having one for your day-to-day expenses is vital but this is for a different day.
Right now, you need to make sure you have visibility on how much you are planning to spend as well as comparing your actual spending to the plan and making adjustments along the way.
It can often be a case that what you don't know can cause the greatest strain and at least having visibility can mean that you can adjust your spending if you are spending too much.
Explore the market for reducing current expenses
There may be lots of areas you could cut your current household expenses such as protection and insurance costs. For example, you can reduce a lot of expenses on health, life and house and contents insurance by simply paying in one lump sum as opposed to paying the annual premium monthly.
The savings alone can could save you thousands of euro per year.
Purchase school child insurance
This is a nice little insurance programme for students and covers a lot of medical bills. It could save you a bundle when it comes to doctor visits and any medicine costs.
The cost of an annual student plan can be as little as €20 but check with your school if they offer the programme.
Use the opportunity to teach your children about budgeting
Back-to-school shopping provides an excellent opportunity to teach your children money management skills.
Concepts like comparison shopping, distinguishing needs from wants and sticking to a budget may all be taught during back-to-school shopping.
By involving your children in the decision-making process, you can help them learn life-long financial and money management lessons.
drug payment scheme
Pay the first €120 per month on prescription drugs and the Government pays costs above this amount.
This is done through nominated pharmacy and covers the entire family. Apply through the local HSE.
look for year round deals
Don't make the mistake of buying all your child's clothing needs at the start of the school year. Shops tend to run more sales and promotions to generate sales so there is likelihood of grabbing a bargain year-round.
In addition, as experience teaches many parents, if a child experiences a growth spurt during the year, trousers you purchased at the start of the school year could end up being too small.
Back to school clothing and footwear allowance
The Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance is available to qualifying parents to help towards the costs of clothing and footwear. Full details are available on www.welfare.ie. It can be another way of reducing costs, especially for parents who are currently working on a tight budget.
tax saver car insurance discount
Some car insurance providers participate in a programme that encourages more public transport use and less private car use.
In some cases, discounts of up to 20pc are available where drivers use the "tax-saver" scheme that is available.
quit smoking and slash your life protection costs
Update your life protection cover details -- if you have quit smoking for more than 12 months, policyholders can generate savings of 25pc to 30pc.
On a policy costing €1,200, the savings would be €360.
You will also eliminate the cost of a really bad habit, which could mean a savings of over €3,000 per annum (after tax, based on one pack of cigarettes per day).
Everyone knows that children grow in spurts, often requiring the purchase of additional clothing. However, as most parents probably did themselves (or had done for them), re-using clothing that an older sibling may have grown out of may be one way of keeping costs down.
This can be an effective way to introduce fall-back clothing for the back to school exercise.
- MoneyCoach is a new service that teaches parents and homeowners on a range of money management skills. The service includes self-help personal budgeting tools, online e-learning facilities as well as a range of calculators and guides. MoneyCoach is free and can be accessed at www.moneycoach.ie