Back To School, But No Need For Blues

Posted: 10th Aug 2016

by Rory McGimpsey

I don’t want to ruin anyone’s summer buzz, but it’s that time of year again. You know the time I mean. The time when everyone’s feeling a wee bit blue. The summer holidays are ending, the days are getting shorter, and the kids are getting ready to go back to school. It seems to get shorter every year, doesn’t it? Not that we get too much sunshine in these parts.

Coming from Northern Ireland, it sometimes feels as if our summer only lasts a few days. Oh well. At least, our rain gets a bit warmer in July and August! The joys of an Irish summer! While we’re all keen to enjoy the last few decent days of summer, there’s no harm in preparing for the upcoming autumn season many of us are dreading. The summer is ending, but there’s really no need for back to school blues!

Although many families are understandably concerned about budgeting for the school year, there are practical hints and tips to guide us through. As always, the key is budgeting early and planning for the months ahead. In the middle of summer, it’s easy to forget that the new school term will be upon us in a flash. But that’s exactly what happens, leaving many families unprepared in terms of household budgets.

The Money Advice Service (based on a YouGov poll surveying more than 4,000 adults) has unearthed some interesting statistics.

  • 44% of parents budget early for the school year
  • 3% of parents budget after the school term has started
  • 31% only buy school supplies as and when needed

At Aperture, our experience and research has shown consistently that household budgets are managed more effectively with proper planning ahead of time.

That’s not to say it’s easy. I used to work as a telephone advisor and conducted advice appointments on a daily basis. One of my biggest challenges was helping clients understand the importance of effective budgeting to ensure that their income, which was often limited, was spread proportionally over their expenses. Emphasising priority of debt was always a particular challenge. Most priority debts are easily identified (i.e. mortgages, rent, utilities) and it’s easy with these liabilities to advise clients to ring-fence funds for repayments. The conversation became more difficult when it came to discretionary expenditure.

With income extremely limited, what scope is there for more indulgent purchases and spending? It’s a balancing act that every debtor has to manage. Obviously educational expenses are always in the priority category – schooling is an essential outgoing for any parent.

However, school expenses are also a good example of essential expenditure that can suffer whenever household budgets are tight and parents are struggling with debt. Good planning is therefore vital to ensure school expenses aren’t neglected whenever budgets are calculated.

MAS also revealed that:

  • 21% of respondents spent more than they could actually afford on school supplies.
  • More worryingly, 22% used a credit card to fund school expenses
  • 12% said they relied on family and friends for support.

Therefore, it’s obvious that many families are struggling with school expenditure. So what help is available? CAB provides an extensive list of potential support services that can help parents in need, including help with school meals and transport costs.

Of course, it’s not just families that need to think about autumn budgets. Millions of people across the country are starting to think about those dark winter nights. Halloween, Christmas, New Year. There are plenty of events coming up that require some degree of financial planning. It’s important not to panic! As ever, the key is to plan well ahead and budget effectively. Looking at ways to cut your costs is often beneficial. Whether it’s phone providers, utility companies, or internet services, it always pays to shop around for new deals whenever your contract is coming up for renewal. Great bargains are out there. You just have to find them! MAS has some top tips for managing your money ahead of time.

“In the summertime when the weather is hot, you can stretch right up and touch the sky” So sang Mungo Jerry, although I’m not quite old enough to remember that one! The nights are getting shorter and the air is getting colder. Winter is on its way. While Aperture hopes you all enjoy the rest of your summer, it’s important to remember that Autumn is coming. With good planning and a carefully thought-out budget, we can all banish the back to school blues!

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