back to school budget
Tricky stuff

Back to school budget

Back to school budgeting can be a stressful task for parents. It’s often more expensive than we anticipate, but the following advice should hopefully help you to save a few cents.

As the school term approaches, it’s the perfect time to think about how you can create and stick to a back to school budget. Here are some smart shopping habits to help you get your budgets on track for the school year.


Uniforms can be one of the biggest back to school expenses, particularly when there is only one retailer you can buy from. Schools are now encouraged to allow a number of retailers to supply their school uniform so that you can shop around for the best value and quality. Another option is for schools to allow students to wear generic clothing, which can be bought in large shops and department stores, and to allow parents to just attach the school crest themselves.

✔ 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 secondhand uniforms.

✔ Keep an eye out for special promotions in shops on school uniforms, such as three for two offers on items such as shirts and polo shirts. Buy two packs to use straightaway and a pack in a larger size for later when your child has grown.

✔ Try to shop around for generic items of clothing like grey skirts or trousers. The larger chain stores can be good for these, but remember that stocks don’t last when demand is high so it’s a good idea to buy early rather than waiting until just before the start of the new school year.

✔ Some chain stores discount uniforms at the end of September or October, so you could buy a few pieces for your child for the following year in a larger size.

✔ Check hems of skirts and trousers to see if they can be let down.

✔ If the uniform still fits but is fading, dye it.

✔ Check out your local charity shop. You might be surprised by what you find, like school ties, stationery and clothing.

✔ Watch out for shoe sales during the year.

✔ If you can, buy a good quality rucksack that will last for a couple of years. This will reduce cost in the long run as you won’t have to change it every year.

✔ Keep your uniform receipts so you can budget for uniform costs for the following year.


✔ 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 what you will need for the year.

✔ Stationery items like these could be bought week-by-week with your weekly shop.


✔ Consider buying second-hand schoolbooks. Before you do, you’ll need to check whether your school specifies a particular edition of a given textbook. Some schoolbook websites also sell second-hand books or allow you to sell your books through their websites.

✔ If you have to buy brand new books, make sure you shop around. You can compare prices in bookshops with online retailers, as well as specialised schoolbook websites.

✔ Exchange books with other parents to save money.

✔ When buying books online, check if the retailer is also offering free book covering as this will save you time and money.

✔ Many schools operate booklending schemes and don’t forget that some books, such as popular classics, are also available from libraries, though lending times can be limited.

✔ You may be able to sell your child’s old books if they are in good condition. Teach your children to take care of their books as this makes it easier to sell on the books if your child is finished with them. If they are underlining words ask them to underline in pencil instead of pen so that this can be rubbed out before selling the book on.

✔ Certain online sites allow you to place free ads for books you want to sell and an ad for books that you need.

✔ Post your book list on Facebook and see if your friends have any of them second-hand.

CREDIT: The advice on this page was provided by The CCPC (Competition and Consumer Protection Commission), which is responsible for enforcing competition and consumer protection laws across the economy. Consumer helpline: 1890 432 432 and consumer website

Mum’s tip

“Don’t automatically buy everything new in September, wait til they’re needed and replace then, they don’t just fall apart in the nine weeks off.”

More like this:

The weekly cost of a healthy family diet
Back to school transition
First day at school


Q. I’m would like to start an exercise programme that will benefit my emotional health as much as my physical health, but I don’t know which type of class would be best. Should I consider choosing from yoga, pilates, tai chi, or could you recommend a class, please?

A It’s great that you have decided to get into exercise. The benefits to you are going to be great. You’ll sleep better, have more energy, better skin, reduced stressed, not to mention all the amazing physical benefits of your clothes fitting better, and looking healthy, trim and toned! My advice to you would be to try them all. Even if some don’t offer pay-as-you-go sessions, if you get in touch directly with the instructor, they will almost always let you try it out first to see if it’s for you. All of the above things that you mentioned are great for mental health, so it really will be a personal preference as to which you go for. On top of the classes you mention, all forms of exercise will give you great mental rewards so consider the not so obvious interval training sessions, bootcamp, and circuits too, as you will also feel on top of the world after a class like that.


Ask Tracey

Midwife Tracey Donegan answers your questions about pregnancy and birth

Q When should I have my first pregnancy scan? And how many scans should I get throughout my pregnancy?

Your first scan is known as your dating scan and is routine in all hospitals. Most mums will have this scan at their booking visit, which can be anywhere between 12-18 weeks. The earlier the scan the more accurate it will be. If you have experienced recurrent miscarriages some hospitals will scan you earlier. Contact your antenatal clinic for more information. In Ireland, most women will have two scans in a healthy pregnancy – a dating scan and an anomaly scan at around 20 weeks. However, some units provide a dating scan only. Private scans are also available in most cities and many parents use these services for additional reassurance and to find out the sex of their baby.