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Back-To-School: Are You In Debt Too?

As parents, you might secretly be looking forward to your children going back to school soon. After having them at home for months, complaining that they’re bored, you might be looking forward to having them out from under your feet.

But leading up to the back-to-school day, it might also be a very worrisome time for you as the list of school necessities only gets longer and the prices only get higher.

The annual school-costs survey commissioned by the Irish League of Credit Union (ILCU) found that more and more parents fall in debt to cover all these back-to-school costs.

More In Debt

“Well over a third (36%) of parents in Ireland say they are getting into debt to cover back-to-school costs,” the ILCU says in a media release. “This is a noticeable increase on the 29% who reported being in debt last year.”

Parents with children in primary school are, on average, in debt of €367. That is €22 more (€345) than in 2017, while parents with secondary school children are €28 more in debt (€443) compared to last year (€415).

READ MORE: 10 Tips For Affordable Back-To-School Buying

Financial Burden

Although a parent might be worried about a lot of other things while sending their children off to school, 67% of the parents who participated in the national study say back-to-school costs are a financial burden.

“Almost half (46%) say that costs are their biggest back-to-school related worry, well ahead of concern that children won’t settle or make friends (15%),” the ILCU says.

“Four in 10 say they are under pressure to buy branded goods and other items for their children. This figure was higher for parents of secondary-school children with over half (54%) feeling the pressure, compared with 39% of parents of primary school children.”

Hence the percentage of parents admitting they will be forced to deny their children certain school items has also increased. In 2017 25% of parents admitted to denying certain things while this year 31% admitted to doing the same.

Making Some Cuts

Of the 31% admitting denying their children certain things, four out of 10 cannot afford new school shoes for their children, while seven in 10 say extracurricular activities will be cut from the budget.

Love spending your summer holidays travelling to different countries enjoying the view? For some parents, that’s something of the past.

“In general, just over a third of parents say they will have to sacrifice spending on family holidays to meet school costs. 22% say they will have to cut sending on household bills and 15% say spending on food will have to suffer.”

READ MORE: These Back-To-School Tips Will Make You Feel Like Super Mum

The Silver Lining

Are you hiding your head under a blanket right now? Stressing about what you’ll allow your children to have, what food your family will eat for the rest of the month and how much time you can devote to a second job?

Don’t lose hope yet. The survey also found that overall costs have fallen somewhat since last year.

“Parents say they are spending €999 per primary school child, a €49 decrease on 2017. For secondary school children, parents say the cost per child has fallen €22 to €1379. In general, the decrease was due mainly to falls in the prices for extracurricular activities, transport and after-school care.”

So what are the biggest expenses?

If you have a child who plays soccer, does ballet, attends weekly art classes and takes singing lessons, you might want to encourage her to cut down on parts of her extracurricular activities.

According to parents who participated in the survey, the biggest spend for primary school children are the extracurricular activities at €153 per child.

“(This is) followed by school lunches at €142 and after-school care at €140.” For secondary school children, books (€200), followed by uniforms (€179) and school lunches and transport (both €175) are the biggest expenses.

Getting (The Wrong) Help

One of the concerns raised by this survey is that more than a quarter (27%) of the parents in debt say they have turned to a moneylender in an effort to cope with back-to-school costs.

“This is up from 20% last year. Of this group in debt, three in ten said they have borrowed between €400 and €500 while more than a quarter said they had borrowed over €800.”

46% of this group said that the reason they choose moneylenders, was because they felt they would be guaranteed the money; and that the approval processes in banks and credit unions would be more difficult. 42% also said that they felt they had no option due to their bad credit history.

Furthermore, 77% said they will use a moneylender again this year to cover back-to-school costs.

READ MORE: 5 Tips For Choosing The Right School Bag

Suggested Ways To Save

Almost seven out of 10 parents (69%) said that schools are not doing enough to keep costs down. However, this has dropped from 76% in 2017.

According to the survey, ways schools can help parents to manage all the back-to-school costs, are reducing the price of books or introducing a book rental scheme, have an option of generic uniforms or even free uniforms.

Are you in the same boat? Do back-to-school expenses put you in debt too? Or do you have tips for saving money at this time of year? Tell us about it in the comments below.


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