Family&Parenting

Covering the cost of our children going to school

New findings suggest around one in five parents have had to cut back their spending on food to cope with the money pressures of getting their kids kitted out for school

FROM uniforms to text books, stationary to lunch boxes – getting children back to school doesn’t come cheap.

Whether your child is starting school for the first time, heading to big school or even university, the bank balance can take a real battering at this time of the year.

Not only are we still trying to cope with the excess amount of money we spent entertaining the kids over the summer holidays but the cost of sending them back to school has taken a chunk out of our wallets.

From buying the new school attire, brand new shoes to replace last year’s outdated version as well as the must-have school bag, the costs encountered by parents has become staggering.

According to new research, the costs of children returning to school are a burden on parents in Northern Ireland.

The findings suggest around one in five parents have had to cut back their spending on food to cope with the money pressures of getting their kids kitted out.

The average spend for primary school parents on uniforms was £96 per child, rising to almost double for secondary school parents at £180.

A quarter of parents said they would find themselves slipping into debt to cover costs, with the average amount borrowed rising to £320.

A staggering 12 per cent said they would even be considering using a money lender this year.

More than two-thirds said the amount of cash needed to spend on school uniforms was creating a ‘burden’.

Almost four in 10 parents have had to sacrifice their family holiday this year to cover the cost of sending their children back to school.

And as if things weren’t bad enough getting the kids started, the costs don’t stop there.

The survey, carried out by Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU), also found that when the school gates re-open, there are school lunches, costing £131 for primary children and £156 for those at secondary school.

In addition primary parents forked out an average of £86 on school trips, rising to £224 for parents with children at secondary school.

Brian McCrory from the ILCU said: “Back to school is an expensive time of year for parents in Northern Ireland and with household budgets already stretched, covering the considerable costs of school has become very challenging.

“Seventy one per cent of parents feel that the cost of sending their children back to school is a significant financial burden.

“We would urge parents to shop around for the best value in back to school items like school books and uniforms.”

My eldest two boys started back to school yesterday, heading through the gates kitted out in their brand new uniforms, shoes and carrying the latest school bags of choice.

Along with my youngest son, who starts nursery soon, I would estimate that the cost for the three of them starting school amounts to around £500.

As silly as it sounds, I started thinking about school uniforms at the end of the academic year – better to stretch the cost out across the summer.

Many parents put off buying uniforms as they fear their child’s height mayshoot up over the summer, but it can help to spread the cost.

While it didn’t surprise me to read that parents are falling into debt in order to cover the costs of the back to school season, it is awful to think of families having to sacrifice the family food budget in order to do so.

And a money lender has to be a last resort. But for families on the poverty line, it’s not as easy to balance the back-to-school costs.

Try to think of ways to cut the costs – perhaps there’s a seconds school uniform shop, or what about the hand-me-downs from older siblings, or perhaps recycle text books and use last year’s pens and pencils.

School days are supposed to the best of our children’s lives, but let’s not leave ourselves saddled with debt, just so they can wear the newest uniform when they go through those school gates.

Family&Parenting

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