Friday 18 October 2019

'I've two primary school kids and one child starting secondary school. How can I stagger the back-to-school costs?'

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo) Business Desk

All your consumers questions answered.

Question: I am planning to stagger my back-to-school spending on uniforms, books and other essentials over July and August to see if this makes the costs more manageable. Is there any advice you can offer to help reduce these costs? I have two kids in primary and one starting secondary and I know it is going to be a really expensive time.

Linda, Templeogue, Dublin 6W

Answer: Many shops start their summer sales before the school term ends so you can definitely get bargains if you plan ahead. Keep an eye out for special promotions in shops, such as three-for-two offers on shirts and polo shirts and so on. Uniforms can be one of the biggest back-to-school expenses. Ask your school or other parents to see if there is a second-hand uniform sale planned. Some websites or local groups on social media sites also sell second-hand uniforms.

Buy some items for September 2018 on — and some in a larger size for later in the year. Shop around for generic items of clothing such as skirts, trousers and jumpers.

School books can also significantly eat into your budget, so consider buying second-hand. If your child is attending a secondary school that requires an iPad for accessing school books, you will need to factor the upfront cost of the device into your budget. Some schoolbook websites sell second-hand books as well as new ones and if you’re on social media you could post your child’s booklist to see if your friends have any of the books you need. Should you have to buy new books, compare prices in bookshops and online. Some websites have additional offers such as free delivery or book covering included — or may offer discounts if you place your order early.

Buying stationery in bulk can be cheaper than buying items one by one. There are usually good offers at back-to-school time, such as bundles of copybooks, pens and notebooks, so, if you can afford it, it might be worth buying stocks to keep your kids going for the year. If not, stationery items could be bought week by week.

Finally, after-school activities can often eat into your budget. Many schools have some activities that are free as they are run by teachers so find out what these are and if they are of interest to your children. Ask family and friends if they can pass on any sports equipment or supplies that they don’t need. Children often change their minds about a sport or hobby, so ask if they can attend the first class for free before paying the full fee. Hold off on buying expensive gear and equipment until you know if your child is going to stick with the activity.

Aine Carroll is director of communications and market insights at the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (

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