Getting Prepared and Budgeting
“Just like that” it’s time to start thinking about getting prepared for the children to go back to school!
The time seems to be slipping by that little bit quicker every year; maybe it’s because we don’t have many of those long warm summer evenings anymore. As always though, preparation is key and the more you get done in advance, the less stress and tears there will be when it comes to going (back) to school in September. You’d be surprised how much in advance you can prepare.
Our Back to School feature for the next few weeks will hopefully help you prepare for all aspects of the new school year. This week, the focus is on getting prepared and budgeting. With the costs rising everywhere, it’s important to get the best value for money wherever you can, and this often includes advance preparation.
Plan and Prepare
No matter how well prepared you think you are, there is always last minute things to take care of, so instead of leaving everything to the week before school re-opens, start early for a stress free return to school this year. Give yourself a month to get prepared and involve your child in the process. We all like to know plans and work towards them and children are no different so keep them involved in as many of the plans as possible. Remember you’re not just preparing for your child to go to school but you’re also preparing to make your own work / life schedule that bit more manageable for the coming year.
So it would be useful, as always, to get a pen and a piece of paper and make a list, or better still, get a marker board and marker and make your list for all the family to see.
Areas that you can prepare for are:
- Finding out when school, particular classes and after school classes are scheduled for the next school year – this will allow everyone to have a clear sense of how the day will run.
- Find out sports and games timetables, to enable you to plan drop offs and pick ups.
- Make a back to school budget plan and stick to it. This will help you and all the family in the long run and if you are under budget at the end of the whole back to school period, you can always have a treat night for the family with the savings!
- Plan a day when the whole family get the necessary haircuts, uniforms, schoolbags, stationery, etc – that way it’s just a one day job as opposed to stretching it out over a week or two!
- Start to gradually work on bedtimes – perhaps try putting children to bed 30 minutes earlier every week and wake them up earlier each day, so they are well rested and well ready for the getting up early schedule when school starts.
- Chalk out a food plan for the first couple of weeks at least and make a menu for all the family to see, so that everyone is aware of what’s for dinner on Thursdays and they can look forward to this and perhaps help prepare the food as well.
- Keep calm and communicative at all times and take one day at a time. Everything will work out fine – it usually does after the first few days of being back at school.
The back to school season is expensive and every year, prices increase and wages stay the same so budgeting is an absolute must for all families with school going children.
You don’t need to employ an accountant to make a budget – just list your income, minus your projected expenditure and this will give you a clear view on where you might have to be cautious about spending on the items that you ‘must have’ as opposed to the ‘would like to have’.
Parents are often forced to deny their children certain school items because of budget constraints. It’s important therefore to speak with your (older) children about budgeting and money matters and try to compromise on non-essential items that are being requested by them for school. It is important to teach children the value of compromise; they can have some things they want, but they probably can easily realise that they can’t have everything they ‘think’ they need.
Many local retailers have already started offering sales and offers on back to school supplies. Make use of these sales and purchase as much as you can in advance and if you have the financial means to do so. Bring the little ones along (if it’s practical) and make a treasure hunt out of it. By comparing prices at different outlets, you can also teach them about managing the back to school budget, and perhaps getting that expensive item after all. The concept of ‘budget’ might seem alien to a child, but they have to learn about it sometime. So the back to school season is the perfect opportunity to learn about the ways of the world. By explaining what the money will be used for, providing guidance and discussing the consequences of overspending, the child’s understanding of budgeting basics might improve their financial decisions in the future.
BACK TO SCHOOL ALLOWANCE
The Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance has already been announced a couple of weeks ago. This means-tested allowance helps thousands of families meet the costs associated with going back to school, and it is generally used for spending on uniforms and footwear for schoolchildren.
This year, the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance was increased by €100 for each eligible child under the scheme. The amount being paid for each eligible child aged 4–11 years will be €260 and the rate payable for each eligible child aged 12 and over will be €385.
This a temporary measure for the current school year only.
To qualify for Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance, you must meet the following conditions:
- You must be in receipt of a qualifying social protection payment or participating in an approved employment, education or training support scheme
- You must be in receipt of an increase for a qualified child (IQC) in respect of each child for whom the allowance is being claimed (except in certain circumstances)
Each child being claimed for must be:
- Aged between 4 and 17 or
- Aged between 18 and 22, and returning to second-level education in the autumn
- The assessable income for your household must be within a set income limit
- You and each child in respect of whom the allowance is claimed must be resident in the State
Most people who have received this allowance in the past, need not apply for it this year, as you should have received a notification by June 20 2022 stating when and how your allowance will be paid. If you haven’t received a notification, and are eligible for the allowance, you should make an application as soon as possible. The last date for receiving applications is September 30. Application forms are available at your Intreo Centre, local Social Welfare Branch Office, Citizen’s Information Centres (www.citizensInformation.ie) or via MyWelfare.ie. All information and links can also be located on www.gov.ie/bscfa .
Funding from the Department of Education and Skills under the Free Education Scheme is available to State primary and secondary schools to help with the cost of school books. The scheme is mainly aimed at pupils from low income families and families experiencing financial hardship. Information about the operation of the scheme in your child’s school is available from the school principal. To apply for assistance, contact the school principal of your child’s school.
SPECIAL NEEDS AND PHYSICAL DISABILITY
Assistive technology grant scheme for primary schools provides grant aid to schools to help them purchase specialist equipment. Organisations, and sometimes parents or guardians can access additional grants for special education including home tuition, Irish sign language, typing scheme, and part time teaching hours are also available. More details on this are available on www.Education.ie.