Back to School and Debt: The Price of Education

Friday 31 August, 2018 Budgeting

With summer almost over, September looms in the horizon. Some people view the month of September as a fresh start, a clean slate in relation to the new school year, an opportunity to do better and be better, however alongside all this optimism comes the financial burden that September lugs along with it. For parents, the return to school can be a stressful time and often people find themselves stretched beyond their financial limits. Wake me up when September ends, right?

Some of the back to school essentials include a new uniform, school shoes and a schoolbag to name a few and these all add up; even with careful budgeting costs are often measured in hundreds of pounds. Research from Nationwide credit cards found that parents across the UK collectively spend more that £1.5 billion on back to school costs. This is a substantial amount of money putting extreme pressure on parents.

Battle of the Brands

In addition to this, in today’s society there is an ever-growing obsession with branded items placing extra pressure onto the shoulders of parents with children sporting the likes of converse and vans to school. With the rough and tumble of the playground it is unlikely that these items will see the year through and the most likely case is that they will be replaced with an equally expensive pair. In fact, according to PrimaryTimes, 10% of parents admit to buying three pairs of shoes over the school year. Many parents simply cannot afford to splash out on such things but chose to spend money they have not earned to do so and for what good reason? To keep up appearances?

Avoiding brand snobbery by shopping in local supermarkets as opposed to the bigger department stores allows you to make clever savings on the same items and often results in more for less. Don’t spend money on the unnecessary things, after all, the safest way to double your money is to fold it over and put it back in your pocket. Savvy savings eh.

Supermarket Store - Asda

Department Store - Debhnams

White shirt ‘set of five’ = £10.50

White shirt ‘set of two’ = £13

Black school trousers ‘pack of two’ = £9

Black school trousers ‘pack of two’ = £17

Grey V neck jumper = £5

Grey V neck jumper = £9

Black leather shoes = £15.50

Black leather shoes = £22.50

Total = £40

Total = £61.50

Prices checked August 2018

The Costs

Many families are having to make sacrifices in order to send their children to school, cutting back on food and utility costs in the lead up to September as it can be very costly. According to PrimaryTimes some of the main costs are as displayed below;

  • Uniform - £70
  • Packed lunch - £585
  • Childcare - £220
  • Commuting - £60

This is simply a few of the expenses, we must also bear in mind the cost of school social events and after school clubs etc.

More than a quarter of the parents in debt have admitted to turning to a moneylender to help them cope with the back to school costs; the interest rates on these loans have the potential to ensnare people within a viscous cycle of debt. This in turn can have detrimental effects on mental health; as Stepchange states ‘Stress can cause a person to get into debt, and debt can cause immense stress.’ It is evident that parents are struggling to cope with back to school costs, therefore where we can cut the cost of school, we should.

Savvy Saving

Admittedly budgeting money and saving the spare pennies is difficult, having to sacrifice luxuries in order to just get by when we work all night and work all day, just to pay the bills we have to pay... However, if making small changes to your spending habits can help to avoid the debt trap then it is a worthwhile sacrifice. Websites such as ‘Mint’ and ‘Wally’ are useful apps for helping you to budget your expenses, if you have found that you have already fallen into debt as a result of back to school costs ‘You Need a Budget’ is an app that may benefit you as it forces you to live within your means. For more information on budgeting apps you can refer to our website and visit ‘The Best Budgeting Apps for 2018’ blog piece and school yourself on how to be a savvy saver.

Money Money Money is the main worry among parents, the cost of returning back-to-school worryingly falls well ahead of concerns that their children will not settle or make friends. So, if you can teach yourself to HATE spending money then we’re on to a winner! Take the steps now to allow September to be a stress-free month, don’t let the price of education have a negative impact on your life, after all in today’s society, education is priceless!