Sinead Ryan: Second-hand
It's still be summer, but thoughts of the kids going back to school are never far from our minds.
A recent survey by the National Consumer Agency found that 74pc of parents are more concerned at the costs associated with our "free" education system than ever before and the costs of school books continues to outrage.
With a single tome costing anywhere up to €40 for the Leaving Cert cycle, there's no doubt that books take a significant bite from the family budget. While some schools operate a book rental scheme, many don't and with constant revisions to editions, not to mention the invasive move towards workbooks instead of texts, parents are having to find new money every year for "updated" books.
It's worth putting pressure on your school, via the parents' association to investigate starting a book rental scheme. The initial costs are outweighed by the benefits to grateful parents and schools very often embrace the idea if enough people are on board to help administer it.
One school in Cork this year saved €30,000 by bringing in book rentals. That means more to spend on computers, classroom equipment and trips.
One of the things you can do is buy second-hand. There are places offering nearly new books and you would do well to check them out. We found www. schoolbookexchange.ie, www. schooldays.ie and www.wiseowl.ie in the virtual world, while Alan Hanna in Rathmines and Michael Doherty in Bray also offer a second-hand service in the real one. There are plenty of others and it's definitely worth asking around, especially for the mega-expensive second-level texts.
For other supplies, such as stationery and copy books, why not join up with neighbours and friends and head to a wholesaler and bulk buy? While you're there, get a bundle of lunchboxes, A4 pads, art supplies and writing implements you know you'll be called on to provide swiftly.
Don't forget to cover everything if you plan to sell them on afterwards. Clear plastic is best and freezer labels are perfect for sticking the name on the front. I know someone who held an annual "book covering party". for her child-free friends. The most boring job can be accompanied with a few glasses of wine.
If you're on social welfare, don't forget about the Government's Back to School allowance of €200 for primary and €305 for secondary students. If you haven't received yours yet and you think you might be eligible, your local health centre or social welfare office has application forms, or text BTSCFA followed by your name and address to 51909.
If there are any topics you'd like to see discussed, email me on firstname.lastname@example.org