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Parents Panel: What's your one tip for keeping back-to-school costs low?

Start buying during the sales, ask for vouchers as gifts – and skip the brand new schoolbag.

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AS PART OF TheJournal.ie’s weekly Family Magazine, we wanted to create a space for parents to share their views. A place where mums and dads could share their experiences, lessons learned, and even mistakes along the way. 

With September on the horizon, the back-to-school countdown is on, which means your bills are about to skyrocket. Uniforms, stationary, coats – and don’t mention all the shoes. This week, we polled our panel for some advice on handling the return to school on a budget.

What’s your one tip for cutting back-to-school costs?

Here’s what they had to say…

Parents Panel All 7 - Copy Top L-R: Olly Keegan, Alan Dooley, Denise, Ken Hyland. Middle L-R: Ríona Flood, Ross Boxshall, Marta Lisiecka, Denise Cumiskey. Bottom L-R: Kait Quinn, Susannah O’Brien, Derek McInerney, Suzie Kelly. Source: TheJournal.ie

I start buying the school supplies in March: Being a single parent I struggle every year with back-to-school costs. I learnt the hard way that I have to organise myself early to spread the expense. I start around Easter, buying up a bit of stationary every week in the shopping. I’d also recommend watching online for promo codes from bookshops. When you have a couple of children requiring books it can really help.

- Denise Cumiskey

We have a strict list of what’s needed in our house – here it is: You don’t need to get caught up in the aesthetics of what your little girl or boy will look like, or how the purchase makes you feel.

What you need:

  • Uniform, big enough to last a year and patches to fix the tears
  • Shoes, big enough to last a year, for wearing at school only
  • Books. Buy them early and get them covered to protect them. Make use of book rental schemes too.
  • A coat, one warm enough for winter and somewhat waterproof for the rain.

What you don’t need:

  • New everything. Take hand me downs wherever you can.
  • A phone. No child needs a phone to keep up with their mates.
  • Expensive brand shoes and clothes. Go cheap with everything.

- Alan Dooley

shutterstock_1146209870 Source: Shutterstock/Sharomka

I shop at sale time, not in September: Tymek is not in school yet, but one thing I do now that I’ll continue is to shop during sales for shoes and clothes.. You can buy ahead by six months or a year that way.

- Marta Lisiecka

I ask for practical vouchers for his birthday: We try to spread costs but things like shoes just can’t be bought in advance. Something as simple as asking for a voucher for a shoe shop – as opposed to a toy shop – for a kid’s birthday can be great.  Currently we have a couple of €10 vouchers for the same shoe shop, which will make a big difference.

- Olly Keegan

We buy the uniforms last: We always leave the uniforms till last so that the kids have done all their summer growing and they can get as long as possible out of the size we end up getting them.

- Ken Hyland

shutterstock_455113375 Source: Shutterstock

We head to the outlet stores: Shoe bills for four kids returning to/starting school are expensive, so we shop for those at a retail outlet. You can save around 25% on normal high street prices, and when you’re buying 2 – 3 pairs per child, it’s well worth the travel costs. It also makes for a nice day out!

- Ross Boxshall

More Parents Panel: What do you put in your child’s lunchbox?>

More Parents Panel: How do you make mornings less stressful in your house?>

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