Back to School with MABS

mabs table

It’s that time of year again and although our younger readers are only beginning to chillax into the summer downtime, the parents/guardians will have no such respite, as back-to-school costs require precision planning in advance if they are to be met without incurring considerable debt.

The sobering statistics recently published by the Irish League of Credit Unions leave the ‘free education for all’ promised at the birth of our State, filed away into the history books, with many struggling to equip their children for the school year.

According to the report, 81% of parents feel a significant financial burden at back-to-school time, with 16% saying they will have to sacrifice on food to cover the costs. The attached table outlines some of the findings.

MABS (Money Advice and Budgeting Service) has always advised forward planning and to stay away from money lenders if possible and that point is reiterated in this report. This year, Dunnes Stores is topping the poll as the go to place for all school-related supplies, with 28% of all shoppers going there, though a significant number of parents are shopping online now, saying that there are better deals, savings on petrol and less stress involved.

It may come as no surprise that secondary school pupils put more pressure on parents for branded accessories than their primary school counterparts. It is noteworthy, however, that 62% of primary and 51% of secondary school parents say they feel no pressure at all. That may be a good statistic to have to hand when you are told, “But everyone has them!”

Many schools are becoming reliant on the voluntary contribution but it is worth bearing in mind that the clue is in the name. It is supposed to be voluntary. If it is something that you are paying, it may be worth asking the school about tax relief on the sum. It may be possible to pay two years together to avail of this.

The implications of these findings for average families range from missing out on family holidays to arrears with utility bills and cutting corners on food shopping.

The advice from MABS at this difficult time is to start planning well in advance. Saving beforehand is always preferred to applying for a loan. Shop around for value on uniforms and books and consider shopping online for bargains. Talk to the school about any difficulty you are experiencing. They may be able to implement an instalment payment plan.

Although 15% of all parents feel that the Back to School Clothing Allowance is insufficient, it is worth applying for. Details of this can be found on the Department of Social Protection website –

MABS would just like to remind our readers that they are available as usual in the office on 26-28 Lombard Street, or telephone 0761 072520, and they also have an outreach each Thursday in the CIC (Citizen’s Information Centre) in Ringsend and Irishtown Community Centre on Thorncastle Street. Telephone 0761 078480 or email

By Maria Shields O’Kelly