Back-to-school is an expensive time of year for any parent. If they plan to borrow, they can use some practical step to keep long-term costs lowFrank Conway, Founder. MoneyWhizz
While schools and the wider community continue to adjust and carefully navigate through the challenges brought on by Covid-19, there is one constant; back-to-school expenses!
A look at back-to-school expenses
It is estimated that the basic cost of sending a child to school for a senior infants pupil is almost €350 whereas when it comes to a fourth class pupil, that cost is closer to €400. The cost increases again to over €700 for a first year pupil in secondary school. Where there are multiple children attending school, the cost will add up quickly.
Good planning is essential
To reduce the financial impact of back-to-school expenses, it is important that families are prepared to budget and where necessary, borrow prudently. Following are some simple tips to help families prepare.
Saving & budgeting
As with any amount of spending, when it comes to back-to-school costs, knowing those costs and having the ready-cash set aside is key. But if you don’t have the cash on hand right now, look to budget and save a little each week or month. As a last resort, borrowing may be an option but use it selectively.
The following are some tips to help make an informed borrowing decision:
- Credit cards – the most cost effective use of a credit card is to repay any outstanding balance quickly. If you cannot pay off the full balance right away, try to pay if off over a 4 – 6 month period. This way, the cost of interest can be kept low. Remember, credit cards become really expensive when using the minimum payment option.
- Short-term – when it comes to loans, longer-term loans cost more in interest charges than shorter-term options so if you are borrowing, where possible, keep the loan term short.
- Check the APR, not the rate – the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is the absolute measure of the cost of borrowing.
- Avoid late payment charges – those can really add up and make loan repayments crippling.
Some practical steps to preparing for the back-to-school period
- Keep an eye out for early season discounts in shops and online. And remember that it is not necessary to do a bulk buy all at one time. You should look to spread the buying with an item or two at a time, unless you do spot a big bargain. Where that happens, go for it! This is why it is so important to have a list of items and a good idea of costs so that when you spot a bargain you can bag that bargain.
- Check out buying in bundles for stationary and again, see what you already have at home only adding items that need replacing.
- Another big cost is books. Don’t leave this to last minute! Also, confirm if your school participates in a school Book Rental scheme, book exchange or if the books you need are available second hand.
- When it comes to clothing and uniforms, try be nimble. Kids grow up so fast so factor in some growth spurts when considering a school uniform or outfit. Some schools may also offer a uniform swap so check with your school in advance. And of course, you can also consider generic clothing where a crest can be added.
With sufficient planning and the right amount of money knowledge, back-to-school expenses can be managed ensuring parents can keep costs under control.
This is also an ideal time to engage with money discussions with children to teach them about budgeting and planning.
Frank Conway is the Founder of MoneyWhizz