Survey shows Financial Strain of Back-to-School Materials

Over three quarters of parents find back to school spending a financial burden, according to the Irish League of Credit Unions. 


A survey found that 78 per cent of parents find back to school spending a financial burden, a significant increase from only 67 per cent in 2018. 


The survey was carried out by iReach Insights in June 2019, an independent market research company. 


They found that the average cost of sending a child to secondary school is €1,399 this year, a slight increase of €20 since last year. However, primary school costs €949 this year, a decrease of €50. 


Despite the overall decrease in costs, the amount of parents in debt due to back to school spending has stayed relatively the same at 36 per cent. Fortunately, the average debt has fallen by €83. 


The ILCU stated on their news release that, "Parents appear to be more prudent with the debt they are running up." 


The average debt is currently €332, while last year it was €405. 


Primary school parents' debt has fallen from €367 in 2018 to €274. Secondary school parents' debt has decreased from €443 last year, to €357 this year. 


Of the parents in debt, 24 per cent have turned to a money lender, only a 3 per cent decrease compared to 2018. 


In Northern Ireland a similar issue is occuring where 37 per cent of parents are in debt due to back to school spending and 35 per cent have gone to a doorstep lender or payday loan.  


Responding to the increased stress of school spending, parents have had to cut back in other areas. 


Many have had to deny their kids school essential due to financial pressures. 


ILCU Head of Communication Paul Bailey said, "We are calling on the Government to take more affirmative action to tackle the rising costs of sending children back to school." 


The cost of uniform and books are the biggest worry for parents with uniforms costing €133 compared to last year's €128, and books costing €123. 


Extracurricular activities cost an average of €159 and after school care is €117. 


Responding to the costs, parents have cut lunch spending from €142 last year to €102 this year. 


Many parents have had to reduce spending over the summer in preparation for back to school spending. 


Many say this is their biggest sacrifice with 43 per cent of parents reducing spending on family holidays. 31 per cent also cut spending on summer kids' activities. 


This year 8 per cent of families had to even cut spending on food. Last year that figure stood at 15 per cent. 


Overall, Paul Bailey said, "We are very encouraged to see that, the numbers approaching moneylenders has fallen by 1% since last year (3% down from 4%)." And added, "We would encourage all parents in need of financial assistance to contact their local credit union and forego moneylenders and credit cards completely.” 


A recent study by ILCU also added that student who have left school and enter third level education often feel financially pressured to find a job alongside studying.  


With 74 per cent of third level students taking up a job, 24 per cent of these students said finances and debt is there biggest worry. Alongside this 55 per cent have skipped lectures to work.