Back to School Budgeting Tips from MABS

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It is that time of year again and as soon as the children have their summer holidays, the shelves of the department stores are packed with school uniforms and new school bags, reminding us of the pending expense lurking at the other end of the summer months. Not to mention the booklist that comes home with the children on the very day that the holidays begin.

Many parents shy away from these looming costs as they do not seem as immediate as the days that now need to be filled due to the temporary school closure. However, Lorraine Waters from the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) believes it’s never too early to start planning ahead.

This way, the cost can be spread over the summer months, rather than panicking in the last week of August. MABS offers some useful tips on the subject.

It is a good idea to check the Back to School Footwear and Clothing Allowance if you are on a social welfare payment, employment scheme, approved training course or FÁS (Solas)/LES training scheme. It is a means-tested payment, so the number of dependents and household income will be taken into account. There are many other ways to cut costs, such as the School Books Grant Scheme, book sales, budget plans from suppliers and bulk buying of essentials like pencils and copybooks.

School uniforms can be very costly, but it is a good idea to check if your school sells second-hand uniforms and sell on good quality items yourself. Watch the stores for promotions on school-wear, and if your school wears a crest it can be transferred from old jumpers.

It is good to be aware of everyday costs in advance. For instance, school trips, photocopying, crafts and healthy lunches are more economical than processed pre-packed foods. Remember also that the voluntary contribution is voluntary, hence the name. Speak to the principal if you are having difficulty in any area, as most are happy to discuss solutions with you.

Once you have gathered all your information together you can make a budget plan. There are handy templates for laying out income and outgoing expenses on along with other money saving tips. MABS advice is, if you do need to borrow, shop around for the best lending rate (APR) and avoid doorstep moneylenders.

For information on any of the services mentioned in the article go to or MABS helpline 076 107 2000

School Books Grant Scheme or call 076 107 4000.
Back to school clothing and footwear allowance or lo-call 1890 662 244.

A warning from MABS:Why pre-paid electricity meters are bad value for money

Pre-paid electricity meters have become very popular, and at first glance can look like a cheaper alternative to a high bi-monthly bill. They operate in a similar way to mobile phone top-ups and energy is paid for in advance rather than in retrospect.

There are a few issues that people should be aware of, however. These devices are expensive, and you will be locked into agreement with one provider, says Frank Conway, founder of the Irish Financial Review. He recommends taking some steps to reduce energy usage, such as checking that windows are draught-free and attics are properly insulated. Also, the daily account charge is very expensive at 37.5 cents a day, adding up to €137 per year.

There are various ways to pay your electricity bills, including at the post office, using the barcoded bill, selected Credit Unions e.g. DubCo Budget Account, online with or at the bank through direct debit, standing order, online transfer and phone banking. If you opt for the pre-paid meters from Pinergy/Pre Pay Power, beware of the extra costs.

By Maria Shields O’Kelly