It All Adds Up



My two eldest children are back to school next week. The cost of uniforms, books, shoes and everything else comes in at just under €1000. For two small children. We have spread the cost over the last few months school costs June, books July, uniform and shoes , August.

Uniforms, school books, stationary, bags, lunch boxes, school contribution, socks, runners, we will hold off until October to buy new coats. The costs go up every year.

I was going through their school books the other evening. I bought the exact same set of books for my daughter two years ago as I did for my son this year. Next year I will buy a third set of the same books. They are all workbooks, they cannot be passed down.

This is the first year neither of my children will be taught in a prefab building. Fingers crossed next year, the building of their new school will be complete and none of them will be taught in a prefab again. The school have been fighting and fund raising for this building since the 1970s.

back to school 1

My school bill could be cheaper but it’s often a false economy buying cheaper uniform items or shoes as ,I have found, they do not last and need to be replaced within weeks. It all adds up. We have two incomes, we have paid for almost all the back to school costs now, the car tax will have to wait another month though, again.

What about people without two incomes though or without any income? The Back to School allowance is available to those in receipt of qualifying welfare payments. The rate is €100 per child for children aged 4-11 years and €200 for children aged 12 +. That will not go far. My small children cost almost 1k for two, a child starting secondary schools uniform, books and extras can cost double or even triple that.

There are children who will start school next week and their parents will go hungry to ensure they have everything they need. There are children who will start school next week without everything they need. There are children who will start school next week hungry.

This is the free education all children of Ireland are entitled too.



Again, I appreciate, I am in a much more fortunate position than many, the back to school costs are increasing each year but we are managing. Something else is falling down the list of things that need to be paid though as a result.

Surely savings can be made somewhere. Would a universal book rental scheme for school going children be that hard to organise? Do small children need two uniforms per week? My children wear a crested uniform three days per week and a crested track suit the other two days. Could junior classes not just wear the track suit? Is a tax credit for parents with school going children against education costs too impossible to implement?

I have friends who look forward to their children starting school so their childcare bill will be reduced or ended. Sorry to burst the bubble but you still need childcare if your children are in school even if you work part-time or term time. You also need a flexible employer. Thankfully I have one. I am lucky. I can work around school meetings and plays and masses. I can run if the school phones if one of my children are sick. I can take a half day if the school has a half day. I still need childcare though and I work part-time. I am lucky though, very few parents have this flexibility.The costs continue. The taxes keep climbing.

Via mindmillion

Via mindmillion

The out goings wont stop next week. September also heralds the return to extra curricular activities. I know and appreciate these are optional extras but I want my children to learn to swim or to engage in team sports. I choose for my children to do these activities. They do not have to. Even with two incomes coming into the household we will have to let the kids choose one activity to partake in. One each because despite the two incomes, that is all we can afford, after all we have corrupt banks, ex politicians and bondholders to support.

So everything will be paid for we will sit back and breathe for a bit but the requests will come home from school regularly. Please pay X amount by Friday for this that and the other. Fundraising please pay X per child. I do not blame the school, the school relies heavily on fund-raising as their budgets have been slashed too. Its more money though that has to be found from somewhere and the back of mind when I get these requests from the school with really short notice, I always think, well there must be one family reading this note that this will be the straw that breaks them. It wont be me but there for but the grace of god go I, it might be me in the future. How do we fix this? How do we make all these costs more manageable?

My youngest daughter starts here ECCE free preschool year next week. The free preschool year is one of the rare great legacies from the Fianna Fail era. This will be my third child to avail of free preschool. My eldest daughter only got it for a few months as she was in preschool when it started. It is a brilliant initiative. Every child in Ireland is entitled to a year of free preschool. Wouldn’t it be great if every child in Ireland was entitled to free education until they are 18 and something could be fixed as the current system is broken. Until then I will go back to watering my money tree and hope it starts to grow soon.

14 thoughts on “It All Adds Up

  1. Fiona says:

    Panic setting in……..! Thankfully D is starting in a brand new building (talked of for the last 30 years at least) and they can wear tracksuit or uniform so we’ve opted for tracksuit. Junior infants the book cost isn’t too much, although like you say, mostly work books so the book rental scheme is useless this year. I’ve yet to get schoolbag, lunchbox etc (waiting for payday so it’ll be a last minute dash). I’m quietly dreading the fact that they both need new shoes, and winter coats etc won’t be too far away. At least childcare costs will come down a bit, although not nearly enough. Like you, a two income household, and barely keeping our heads above water. Free education my a*#e!!!

  2. sillysammy says:

    Here here! I switched my son to the Educate together school, we simply don’t have the money for a uniform. I’m dressing him out of charity shops and hand me downs as it is! And childcare is another issue- Im supposed to be returning to college in a few weeks but having been quoted at least 75 euro for three days of childcare, I think I’ll have to stay home. 75 euro is a lot to a single college mum when somebody only needs to sit with my son for two hours, three days a week and provide beans on toast until I’m home. Luckily in Junior infants I just need to pay 100euro for arts,books and reading materials as everything is bought in bulk for the school. However, when I looked at the cost of the local school I felt faint. It’s scary how much education in general costs these days- from the primary school mentioned here, to the secondary schools now using Ipads in class rooms and lest we forget how damn expensive it is to go to college! I understand why uniforms exsist, but something in the cost needs to change- perhaps wearing your own tracksuit could cut costs? And back in the olden days we had a lovely thing called the ‘loan book scheme’- 2 euro per book to rent from the school for the year.

  3. The Silver Voice says:

    The entrepreneur who dreamt up the concept of workbooks should have been slain! It is all about someone making money – the book publishers probably.. My eldest did 6 years primary school in England. All the school books were provided by the school, free – not even a rental charge. If however a book was damaged or not returned by year end you had to pay towards a replacement. There were no heavy schoolbags,so the books stayed in the school at all times. We did have a crested uniform jumper The school sold the crest and you could get the navy jumper in Marks and Spencers or British Home Stores yourself and sew it on. but everything else – navy skirt, navy tracksuit, was generic and readily available at a reasonable cost. When we returned to Ireland and she went into the Irish system – what a change, what a total shock. Expensive uniforms, expensive books that could not be handed down and contributions needed for everything!. This state of affairs will continue until parents stand up together and say WAIT! But the chances of parents ever doing that are NIL. We are on the merry-go-round and can’t get off.

  4. SusieChopstick says:

    While I feel that we have escaped generally lightly this last 3 years because we have only one child in school yet, I agree totally on the whole uniform and book front. My daughter goes to a gaelscoil. We get generic items when it comes to the pinny, shirt, tracksuit etc but the crested and unique uniform jumper (teal green with grey stripes on cuffs etc) is 28 euro. Luckily her sister will be able to avail of these, she’s not hard on clothes!
    My sister in law found an embroidery service. Crested uniform jumper = 20 euro.
    Noncrested, bought in Tesco = 5 euro. Embroidered crest = 3 euro per garment. Sorted.
    When it comes to workbooks, it’s terrible… One or two in a year wouldn’t hurt but 6 or 7? And the thing about it is, I happen to know that inspectors hate workbooks. They also hate to see an overdependence on textbooks, which they say should only be used as a backup. Rental scheme all around I say! Not to mention heavy bags. My daughter’s bag weighs 11lbs this year. That’s a fifth of her body weight. I am glad they leave some books in school!
    And this year, we have the First Holy Communion. I want her to have a nice day but we won’t be paying a grand or more for dinner in a hotel or anything like it. Portrait? Grandad is a good photographer. Nor will I be paying huge exorbitant amounts of money for a dress. I’ll have her dress made from my wedding dress, and her sister can wear it too. I’m sorry to say that I’m a bit old fashioned and the notion of an alb for the First Communion doesn’t appeal to me – I’d like them to have their dress, just for the day.
    The notion of free education is impossible in Ireland, I think. The children’s allowance wouldn’t even touch a corner of childcare costs, but they’re talking about taking it away and making payments to school attenders. I just hope they don’t cut it any more, we depend on it for so much.

    • The Clothesline says:

      Communion this year too. Thankfully also a Grandad who is a photographer and that is a fab idea about the wedding dress, you have given me something to think about.

      Cannot even think about another cut to Childrens Allowance.

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