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Money Saving Tips at Back-to-School Time

Back to school time is always a particularly expensive time of the year for parents but in the current difficult economic climate many parents are looking for ways to save money on school costs. We’ve highlighted below some of the annual back-to-school expenses along with some tips on how you might save money.

With a lot of wear and tear, it can be difficult to pass-on or obtain second hand school uniforms in good condition. However it can be worth checking with neighbours or relatives for second hand school coats or blazers which are often not worn much and can effect considerable saving if purchased second hand. Remember you can also advertise for free on that you are selling or looking to buy a second hand uniform - find out how to do this.

Shop-around for generic items
While you may have to visit specific shops to purchase items with the school logo, e.g. jumper or tracksuit, make sure you shop around for the generic items such as the navy skirt or trousers or the white or blue shirt. Larger chain stores can have some very good offers early in the school season. However be cautious in that cheapest isn’t always the most cost effective. Spending that little bit more on better quality may mean that the jumper or trousers may last you a little longer saving on secondary purchases during the school year. Check out our list of school uniform suppliers

Label Uniforms
There is nothing more frustrating for a parent who has spent considerable money on purchasing a new uniform at the beginning of the school year than for their child to announce after a few weeks or months that they have lost their jumper or jacket. By labeling the uniform and including a telephone number you considerably increase the odds of the lost item being returned. Put your home number on the label rather than your child’s mobile number – in this way your child’s mobile number will not inadvertently get into the wrong hands.

A Size Bigger
When buying school uniforms for kids or teens, the ‘perfect fit’ may not always be the most cost effective purchase. Kids grow quickly and buying one size up allows room for growth. Equally you can get considerably longer life out of good quality skirts or trousers if you are handy with a needle and thread (or sewing machine), and can let down hems. So when buying skirts and trousers, look to see if hems are sufficient to be let down.

Clothing allowances
Check if you qualify for the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance. The scheme helps towards the cost of uniforms and footwear for school children, and operates from 1 June to 30 September each year. It is run by the local office of the Health Service Executive as part of the Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme. Your local office of the Health Service Executive will decide if you qualify for this payment. Find out more

Where you can, try and buy second-hand books. If purchasing in a school book shop always ask the shop assistant when submitting your school book list to check first for second hand books available . When buying second hand it is particularly important to check that you are buying the version of the book specified by your school. When buying second-hand books from a retailer, it is reasonable to expect some wear and tear. But they must still be "fit for purpose" - if they are faulty (for example have pages missing), you are entitled to a repair, replacement or refund.

Another way to save money is to trade in or sell books that your children have finished with - once
again it's worth shopping around to get the best offer if selling to a shop. For second hand books online, visit our facility on where parents advertising or buying second hand books can connect for free.

It is equally important to shop around when buying new school books, While the prices of the books themselves may differ very little from shop to shop, there are good deals to be head in terms of reduced or free book covering or, for online buyers, reduced or free delivery - check out some school book offers here . It is a good idea to have your child’s books covered so as to keep them in good condition allowing you to sell them on next year.

Some schools operate book-lending schemes, which you might wish to investigate and try setting one up in your school. Don't forget that some books such as popular classics are also available from libraries, though lending times can be limited.

Buying stationery in bulk can be cheaper than buying items one by one. There can be good offers at back-to-school time, such as bundles of copybooks, pens and notebooks, so it's good to buy what you think you will need for the year. Bulk buying with family, friends or neighbours can also bring the cost down further.

Considerable money can be saved on lunches , particularly at second level, where many parents have gotten into the habit of providing money for their teens to purchase lunches daily at shops local to schools. Packed lunches prepared at home are not only cheaper than shop-bought lunches - they are often nicer and more nutritious.

Remember too that some lunchbox products targeted at children can work out being far more expensive than putting them together yourself - and they can also contain large amounts of salt and sugar. Considerable savings can be effected by providing/making up drinks for your children/teens in flasks/juice/water bottles rather than purchasing expensive drinks in non-re-usable bottles and cartons.

A significant number of schools now have "no junk" policies and specifically request that parents avoid including snack foods and sweets in lunchboxes. Such policies can greatly assist parents in that pressure from their kids for treats is greatly reduced

A little time spent planning your family's weekday lunch menu before you do the shopping can be good for your child's health and can end up saving you a tidy sum.