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Back To School

Back to school: Costs going down but parents still going into debt

Parents have cut back significantly on extracurricular activities, while 13% are seeking loans to cover costs.

NEARLY THREE QUARTERS of parents say that covering the cost of back to school is a considerable financial burden.

That is according to a survey by the Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU), which found that despite a slight reduction in costs overall compared to last year, families are struggling in the lead up to September.

The main findings from the survey include: 

  • Parents are spending on average €1,152 for primary school children – down €43 on last year.
  • At secondary level, sending a child back to school now costs €1,288 – down €230 on last year.
  • No change in the percentage of parents going into debt (29%), with many borrowing over €500.
  • 13% of parents are seeking a loan to cover additional household costs.
  • Significant reduction in parents seeking loans from money lenders to supplement their cost of living – down from 10% last year to just 2% in 2023.
  • 18% of parents are trying to earn additional income to cover costs.

David Malone, CEO of ILCU, said that the reduction in costs is partly due to parents cutting back on extracurriculars, with 40% stopping or reducing non-essential activities.


The hope is that the state’s primary school free book scheme will reduce the need for parents to go into debt.

Nearly half of parents have not been informed of the scheme by their school, the survey says, and most of those parents are intending to purchase school books this year.  

The average level of debt is €306, with 17% of parents having debts of over €500.

“Thankfully, the message on getting a credit union loan rather than using Payday or money lenders for help with back-to-school expenses seems to be getting through,” Malone said.

“For back-to-school supplies, 4% will seek a credit union loan and no respondent said they would go to a bank or moneylender.  This is the type of community need which Credit Unions meet every day.

“The cost of the loan will be cheaper – we’re answerable to our members, not to shareholders demanding big profits and a new member can join and apply for a loan on the same day.”

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