Back-to-school expenses are leaving parents in credit card debt this year 1 month ago

Back-to-school expenses are leaving parents in credit card debt this year

How much worse can it get?

The cost of living is increasing, and we are all affected – some more than others, of course.

In just a few short weeks, schools will be going back, and parents budgeting for back-to-school expenses have already started to feel the pinch.

According to a new survey by the Irish League of Credit Unions, this year's back-to-school expenses are leaving more parents with debt, including credit card debt.

The results of the survey of 764 parents found that a whopping 66 percent admit that the back-to-school costs are a financial burden, and that price increases across a range of areas including school books, uniforms and transport are adding to their worries.

Can't afford extracurricular activities

As the cost of living continues to rise, the survey found that 67 percent of parents will limit or deny extracurricular activities to their children because they simply cannot afford them.

As for actual costs, the survey found that parents of secondary students are paying €1,518 per child, up €27 on last year, while parents of primary pupils are paying €9 extra, amounting to a total of €1,195 per pupil.

What is worse, many parents are resorting to using their credit cards to afford back-to-school expenses.

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While three-quarters of parents use their general income to pay back-to-school costs, the numbers using credit cards has increased to 29 percent – up from from 23 percent in 2021.

And as many as nine out of 10 parents with children in school say they have been affected by the rising cost of living since the beginning of the year.

Head of Communications with the Irish League of Credit Unions Paul Bailey said the cost of sending a child to school has reached the highest level since the Credit Union began conducting the survey in 2017.

Paying school expenses with credit cards

He said 90 percent of respondents said the rising cost of living is affecting their household costs and their income.

"One in three said they're really struggling to stretch the household budget, and when you add in school on top of that, that increases to four in ten people," Bailey said.

"There's a huge increase in the number of people using their credit card from last year and that's a concern because a credit card is a high cost of debt.  One in ten are falling into debt - 3 percent of those would consider going an unregulated or unlicensed moneylender."

Bailey also pointed out that 66 percent of schools nationally continue to charge voluntary contributions, which he said puts pressure on parents.

He acknowledged that schools need funding and if they are not funded properly by the State then they must get it from somewhere.

"But to call it voluntary I think is a misnomer," he said.

The survey comes as the back-to-school allowance is set to increase by €100 per child from August, while an additional 60,000 children will receive a school meal, and charges for school transport will be suspended for one year.

Minister for Education Norma Foley said the increase will ensure that families are in a "much better and stronger position".