Joe’s Jotter: Finding savings heading ‘Back to School’

Heading back to school each September is an expensive time of year for Parents. Parents have certain fixed costs in their head they know need sorting, but I think it’s the costs the appear in the first few weeks that are unexpected are the toughest to meet. Examples of these include requirements for specific classes, sport items, book rentals, deposits, or items they assumed their child had, that may now be lost or damaged. In Maths, for instance, purchase of a new calculator, a hardback for notes, log tables and a Maths set are required, and these costs can be omitted from one’s planning at the start of the year.

On average, Parents spend over €1,400 to send each child back to secondary school, and according to research, over 60% of parents struggle with these costs. The issue here is that most of these costs cannot be avoided. It was encouraging to see the Minister introduce free schoolbooks for all primary school students from this September. I would hope that something similar will be introduced at Secondary level to alleviate the costs for Parents there also.

My Best Cost Saving Tips for returning to School 2023 

  1. Purchase Second-hand Books

When we were young, getting a schoolbook was such a novelty (independent of its quality). Books your child will use this year don’t need to be brand new. Investigating avenues for ‘not so new’ books with friends or Facebook groups will save you substantially on costs. Parents are only delighted to offload schoolbooks, knowing they won’t need them again and you may even get them for free. Most textbooks are available second hand now, with exam papers and workbooks probably required to be bought new. Separately, always check if your retailer is offering a free book covering service for any new ones purchased with them.

  1. Bargain Around

When I go to purchase books or materials in a shop, I usually check will it be cheaper to buy online. Do a good search online and write down the cheapest cost (with postage) of each book. Ring the company and check to see if it’s possible to ‘pick up’ online orders to save on this postage. Write down the online cost per item and bring the list to the shops with you to discover which is cheaper. As with any purchase, planning is better than impulse buying and usually this strategy will save you a few reddys.

Buying slightly larger sizes in clothes and uniforms could mean your child gets an extra year out of them. Buy cheap – buy twice applies to many items a child will need for school. Items needs a certain level of robustness to be carted around in the school bag for the year.

  1. Allowances Available

Do you qualify for any of the ‘Back to School’ allowances? The citizens information website is a brilliant resources to use during the year to find out what you might be entitled to. It is also kept very much up to date. Bus allowances could save you driving them to school each day. Talk to your friends about this one to see what allowances they are receiving, that you could qualify for as well.

  1. Budget out your Listings

Write out a list of what you need to buy for each child and the approximate cost of it. Budgeting for back to school means the money you have will be put to the best use. If you are technically minded, do the budget out on an excel spreadsheet. Putting away a small amount into the Post Office or Credit Union each week can accumulate into a nice sum come September time. It also looks good when you want to apply for a loan.

Making out a budget for August and September is prudent, ensuring that you build in a ‘Miscellaneous’ column for the unexpected costs I alluded to earlier. You are more likely to stick to a budget if you write or type it, and the advantage of having it on your laptop or PC is that you can adjust it and do basic calculations as you go. Be sure your child actually needs a book or an item of sports gear before budgeting for it.

  1. Technology Savings

Can you pass down any technology an older brother or sister may have used? Can you purchase a reconditioned laptop or tablet for them for use? My last iPhone was restored (via an online company) and has served me well over the last few years. There are loads of websites and stores that offer reconditioned products now and if you can get some kind of a warranty with them, it may be a good euro saving option.

  1. ‘Bulk up’ on Materials for the Year

Instead of buying three black, blue, and red pens, it may be a good idea to buy a pack of ten of each. This principle applies to all stationary. You know your child will need plenty of stationary during the year, so it makes total sense to buy in bulk and store somewhere safe where your child can draw on them as they need. My own students usually lose their calculator at least once over their Junior or Senior Cycle. Buying two may not yield savings now, but it will give you the peace of mind of not having to find the exact same model before their Maths test in November, for example.

Bringing your teenager with you for the ‘School shop’ in August and asking them how many of each item they would go through each year is wise. The German multiples may be handy for these ‘bulk’ shops, though be careful not to come out with a hedge trimmer and a hammer as well  – lol. Another point of note (for those of you who have more than one child in the same school) is to think about what they can share. Again, it is better to include them in this discussion, given that they will be the ones sharing the materials. Ask them what idea’s they may have on saving on school costs for the new year.

  1. Plan Snack, Break and Lunch Times

Again, it is a good idea to plan what your child would eat at both break and lunchtime, including them in the discussion again to prevent wastage. Make a list of foods they enjoy and will eat and stock up, ensuring you are encouraging as many healthy options as possible.

Savings can also be made by freezing any foods to be used in the next few months, as well as searching out non-perishables multi packs in your nearby chain store. Keep an eye out for the little ‘savings magazine’ in the supermarkets your visit during August and September in order to save yourself a few more bob. You can review school lunches and snacks again once Term 2 starts in January. The problem, as a I see it, with just giving them money for their lunch is that the local chipper will greatly benefit (and not exactly their health or overall nutrition) and indeed my old nemesis the ‘Chicken fillet roll’ will have a field day.

I know that many of you use excellent cost savings strategies yearly and I wish you luck now getting your child back to school for this new academic year. As I always say,  you can only do your best and knowing many of you, you are very much doing that. Thanks for reading. Joe.

More details about Joe’s Maths Tuition Classes 2023 for 5th & 6th Year (Leaving Certificate Higher Students) and his Award Winning ACE Maths Solution Books for all students, can be found via links below:

ACE Maths Tuition Classes:

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