Thursday, 9 July 2015

Back to School Research

School has only just broke up for the summer but many parents of school going children are already looking ahead towards the back to school shopping season. The cost of school going children to parents can be a significant financial burden and can put pressure on other areas of the family budget.  
This week, The ILCU published the results of the 2015 ‘Back to School’ spending survey, looking at just what the costs for both primary and secondary school children are. The results highlight the cost implications for families when funding back to school expenses and how they intend to covers these costs. The financial burden placed upon families at this time can be immense and credit unions around the country would like to work with their members to help them to manage what can be a challenging financial time.

The survey found that 81% of parents of school going children (primary & secondary) feel that the costs of sending their kids back to school is a significant financial burden. 32% of parents say they are likely to get themselves into debt to cover these costs. The average amount borrowed is €360. 

In terms of how parents cover the costs – the survey shows that monthly income is now the most common way in which parents pay for back to school supplies. 41% of parents will use their monthly income to cover the costs. This is followed by savings (25%), up from 21% in 2014. 12% use the back to school allowance and 20% will borrow money from a credit supplier (12% credit card, 5% credit union loan, 1% bank loan, 2% moneylender). Borrowing is most evident in parents of secondary school children, this group are also more likely to borrow from a moneylender.

In the survey, parents stated that they believe uniforms / school clothing are the most expensive items to purchase for their children going back to school. Parents of primary school children are spending an average of €166 per child on uniforms/ clothing, up from €160 in 2014. Secondary school parents are spending an average of €258 per child on uniforms/ clothing, down from €266 in 2014.Books are the second most expensive items on the list with parents of primary school children shelling out €106 on books, down slightly from €107 in 2014 and secondary school parents spending €213 on books, up significantly from €166 in 2014.School lunches have over taken extra-curricular activities as the third most expensive item on the list.

Dunnes Stores continues to be perceived as the best value for school clothing (23%). Marks & Spencer remains second (17%) and Tesco is considered the third most popular place (14%) for the best value school clothing.

The summer months should be a time for families to enjoy some quality time away together but 70% of parents have had to sacrifice their family holiday this year to cover the cost of sending their children back to school. Back to school expenses also have a negative impact on 29% of household bill payments, up from 26% in 2014. 

Worryingly, 16% will have to sacrifice spending on food to meet back to school expenses. 2% say they use a moneylender to pay for back to school costs, the survey found that 12% of all parents would consider a moneylender option to cover these costs. We would strongly urge people to avoid using these expensive sources of credit. Borrowing from high cost moneylenders can result in many getting trapped in a cycle of debt from which it is very hard to break free.

The survey also found that 49% of parents shop online for back to school items to avail of better value offers and many of the larger retailers. We would urge parents to shop around for the best value in back to school items like school books and uniforms.  We recommend that you check what you have left over from last year and then make a list of everything you need to buy and stick to that list.

From time to time throughout the year parents will also be asked to make voluntary contributions to  the school with 7 in 10 parents making a voluntary contribution amounting to an average €112 per child in 2015 (fall from €119 in 2014). Secondary schools are more likely to request voluntary contributions (77%) than primary schools (70%). Parents of secondary school children are required to pay higher contributions of €140 than parents of primary school children €82. Voluntary contributions across the board (primary & secondary) are down on 2014 figures.

Back to school season can be a very stressful time for parents who only want the best for their children. We want to let people know that credit unions are available to support parents and help them prepare for the academic year. Credit unions offer some of the most competitive personal loan rates on the market. We encourage anyone who is worried about Back to School expenses or who simply want some help on planning ahead or budgeting, to call into their local credit union and speak to a member of staff. At the credit union, we pride ourselves on doing things differently and ensuring that in everything we do, our members matter most.