Rising Back-to-School Expenses Show No Signs of Slowing Down

“Rising Back-to-School Expenses Put Financial Strain on Irish Parents, 72% Struggling to Cope”
Rising Back-to-School Expenses Show No Signs of Slowing Down

Back-to-School Costs Continue to Burden Irish Parents

It may feel like just last week that children broke up for the summer holidays, but the reality is that the summer never seems to be as long as promised. As the new school year approaches, parents are beginning to grapple with the financial burden of getting their children ready for school. According to a national survey conducted by the Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU), 72% of Irish parents say that the cost of back-to-school is a financial burden, up from 66% last year and 63% the year before.

The survey, carried out by independent market research company iReach Insights in June, interviewed 723 parents of school children. The findings revealed some surprising figures. Parents preparing children for secondary school are spending an average of €1,288 per child, a significant drop from last year’s average of €1,518. Similarly, parents of primary school children are also spending less this year, with an average of €1,152 compared to €1,195 last year.

Mr. David Malone, CEO of the Irish League of Credit Unions, acknowledges that parents continue to feel a considerable financial burden when it comes to educating their children. While there has been a slight reduction in the amount being spent per child on back-to-school costs compared to 2022, general cost-of-living increases are impacting households. This reduction in costs is partly due to parents cutting back on extra-curricular activities. However, there are still parents getting into debt to cover back-to-school costs. The average level of debt is €306, with 17% of parents having debts of over €500. Interestingly, the survey also found that the number of parents getting into debt this year is the same as last year, at 29%.

Mr. Malone is encouraged by the fact that more parents are opting for credit union loans rather than using payday or money lenders to help with back-to-school expenses. According to the survey, 4% of respondents plan to seek a credit union loan for back-to-school supplies, while none said they would go to a bank or money lender. However, there is evidence of households cutting back on other expenses to afford back-to-school costs. 40% of parents have cancelled or reduced non-essential services and activities in the run-up to September. Additionally, 18% of parents are trying to earn additional income, which may have an impact on family life. 13% of parents said they were seeking a loan to cover additional household costs, with 2% saying they would go to a money lender.

Mr. Malone emphasizes the importance of informing parents about the free primary schoolbooks scheme, which will launch in September. This scheme aims to ease the burden on families by providing schoolbooks, workbooks, and copybooks to children in recognized primary schools and special schools. Parents will not have to pay any contribution towards schoolbooks. However, according to the survey, nearly half (49%) of parents have not been informed of the scheme by their school, and 39% of those parents still intend to purchase school books outright this year. Mr. Malone expects to see the full impact of the scheme next year and hopes that its introduction will reduce the need for parents to get into debt in the future.

The survey also highlighted the rising cost of living. The most expensive secondary school item this year is schoolbooks, costing an average of €187. For primary school parents, extracurricular expenses are the top expense, averaging at €191. Last year, 66% of parents said they had to deny their children extracurricular activities due to affordability, and this year’s figure has only slightly decreased to 62%. Additionally, nearly two-fifths (37%) of parents say they are forced to deny their children new shoes because they cannot afford them. The survey also revealed that 75% of schools are still seeking voluntary contributions, a 10% increase from last year.

To help parents budget for school expenses, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission offers a budget planner on its website, ccpc.ie. This tool can assist parents in determining exactly how much they will need to fund school in the coming months.

When it comes to secondary school costs, it is important to consider additional expenses that arise when children transition from primary to secondary school. These may include books, uniforms, after-school activities, school trips, and electronic devices. While the new book scheme only applies to primary school children, there are ways to economize on secondary school books. Many schools sell second-hand books, and there may also be a book rental scheme available. Swapping books with other families is another option, and parents can inquire about this through the school or parent-teacher association. Additionally, buying second-hand uniforms or taking advantage of sales can help reduce costs.

In conclusion, the cost of back-to-school continues to be a financial burden for Irish parents. While there has been a slight reduction in expenses compared to last year, many parents are still getting into debt to cover these costs. The introduction of the free primary schoolbooks scheme is expected to alleviate some of the financial strain, but it is crucial that parents are informed about the scheme to take full advantage of it. As the cost of living continues to rise, it is important for parents to budget and explore cost-saving options when it comes to school expenses.