Back to school money saving tips

If you have a child that’s starting or returning to school in September, it’s an expensive time of year and you may be concerned about  meeting the costs.

The best way to prepare for these costs is to set out a budget. The National Consumer Agency’s back to school budget planner can help you. It’s also a good idea to check whether you are eligible for Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance which helps towards the cost of uniforms and footwear. You can get more information on the conditions you must meet to qualify and how to apply on the Department of Social Protection website.

If your finances are under pressure, the following tips can help you make savings on some of the main back to school costs:


  • Uniforms can be one of the biggest back to school expenses. Talk to your school to see if it operates or knows of a second-hand uniform sale. Some websites also sell second-hand uniforms.
  • Keep an eye out for shops doing special promotions on school uniforms and try to shop around for generic items of clothing like grey skirts or trousers – just because the school crest appears on the jumper doesn’t mean you have to buy the matching plain skirt or trouser from their exclusive supplier. The larger chain stores can be good for these, but bear in mind that stocks don’t last when demand is high so it’s a good idea to buy early rather than waiting till just before the start of the new school year.
  •  If your school requires you to buy an item of clothing with a school crest, ask them if you can purchase the crest and uniform separately to save you money.
  • It can be worth checking with friends or relatives for second hand school coats or blazers which are often not worn much.
  • Label Uniforms. There is nothing more frustrating for a parent who has spent considerable money on purchasing a new uniform at the beginning of the school year than for their child to announce after a few weeks or months that they have lost their jumper or jacket. By labelling the uniform and including a telephone number you considerably increase the odds of the lost item being returned. Put your home number on the label rather than your child’s mobile number – in this way your child’s mobile number will not inadvertently get into the wrong hands.


  • Consider buying second hand schoolbooks. Before you do, you’ll need to check whether your school specifies a particular edition of a given textbook. If you have to buy brand new books, make sure you shop around. You can compare prices in bookshops and with online retailers, as well as specialised schoolbook websites. Some schoolbook websites also sell second hand books or allow you to sell your books through their websites.
  • If buying new books you can sometimes make savings (typically 10%) if you are organised and buy your books during the summer holidays. But check with your school that there will be no changes to their book-list.
  • Some schools operate book-lending schemes and don’t forget that some books, such as popular classics, are also available from libraries, though lending times can be limited.
  • Don’t forget that you can also sell or swap your child’s old books if they are in good condition.
  • Clients of Galway Maths Grinds can advertise for free that they have books for sale or that they want to buy school textbooks by emailing the details to
  • The same comments above on labelling uniforms apply to putting a name and contact number on books and other equipment.


  • Buying stationery in bulk can be cheaper than buying items one by one. There are usually good offers at back-to-school time, such as bundles of copybooks, pens and notebooks, so, if you can afford it, it might be worth buying what you will need for the year.
  • Consider bulk buying with family, friends or neighbours to bring the cost down further.


  • Packed lunches prepared at home are not only cheaper than shop-bought lunches – they are often more nutritious. Lunch-box products targeted at children can contain large amounts of salt and sugar and generally work out more expensive. A little time spent planning your family’s weekday lunch menu before you do the shopping can reduce food wastage and save you money.
  • You can get tips on making healthy lunches on the safefood website.


  • Most students at sometime require additional help outside of their normal school time for any number of reasons. While often 1-to-1 classes are the most appropriate solution to meet their needs,  this is not always necessary. Savings in fees can be made by taking a class with just one or two other students, and each can still receive a high level of individual attention. Galway Maths Grinds offers this facility subject to being able to match students with similar requirements.
  • As well as combating summer learning loss, taking classes during the summer holiday period may also be cheaper than during the normal school year.

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