This will still involve some planning to save some money, but I hope by sharing my tips that I use yearly on my little girls back to school shopping that you are also able to save a lot of money! Here we go:
Take an inventory and make a shopping list
Before shopping for new uniforms and school supplies, have a look around the house and see what you already have. You may be able to find some stationary around the house to cut some or all the cost of the stationary shop. Also get the kids to try on last school years uniform, to see whether or not you need to get any new polo tops, trousers or dresses. Once you know what you have, make an inventory of the items that can still be used and a shopping list of the things you need to buy. This will then help avoid unnecessary purchases of new items.
Use cashback websites
If you do need to buy something new, have a look whether the retailer you wish to purchase from is on a cashback website. If they are, it’s a bonus!
Buy a size lager
I tend to buy the size up from my daughters current size, so that she is able to wear her uniform for the whole new school year and possibly even the next school year if she doesn’t have a big growth spurt.
Buy second hand
Logoed uniform such as blazers, cardigans and polo tops can be very expensive. So it may be worth having a look in local charity shops, Facebook marketplace and the schools second hand uniform sale run by the schools PTA to grab a bargain. This year I found a logo cardigan in a charity shop for £3 and it looked like new without any signs of wear. Though it was 3 sizes too big, I have still picked it up for the future, as a cardigan with my little girls school logo costs £10.99 from the uniform shop.
Usually buying stationary in bulk works out cheaper in the long run. I like to stock up on stationary just few days before and after the new school year starts, because many supermarkets then reduce the prices on stationary and bits of uniform. I then bulk buy and store away stationary, which usually is enough to last as about 2-3 years. If you have a girl like me, keep your eyes peeled for the gingham school dresses during autumn, as they tend to go on sale then. Why pay full price when you can get them cheaper, right? When I see some on sale I buy them one or 2 sizes up so that they can be worn the next summer.
Buy with friends
Buying stationary and uniform with a friend can help you both save money especially with the buy 3 for 2 or buy one get one free offers. Last year I bought some buy one get one free items and we split the cost so we each got the same item for the half price.
Hand me downs?
Do you have a friend or family member with an older child than yours? Might be worth asking whether you could have their kids outgrown uniform or buy it of them instead of buying new.
It is worth labelling all uniform bits and accessories, including headbands if your child wears them, as kids sometimes take their jumper or blazer off and forget about them. Schools often have a big pile of school jumpers, tops and blazers in a lost property box, because the item hasn’t been labelled. It is difficult to find who the item belongs to without a name especially in a big school with 2 or 3 intake groups. And the last thing you would want is a brand new school blazer or jumper to vanish, only for you to fork out more money. I tend to use a Sharpie or custom name labels, which I found cheapest to order from Amazon.
Don’t buy name labels from Mynametags.com
I’ve done the mistake ordering in expensive name labels when my girl Yas started reception class. Those labels cost approximately £12 for about 60 labels. A permanent marker such as a Sharpie does the same job and can label more than 60 items and cost a fraction of the sticky name labels. However if you still want the cute labels, I did find cheaper custom name labels on Amazon.
Click & collect avoid delivery charge
I often buy Yasmins Polo tops without logos from ASDA as they are cheap and good quality. However bottle green polo tops without the schools logo are hard to find. I have checked Tesco, ASDA, Matalan and Sainsbury, who all do not stock this particular coloured top, so I had to order online. Instead of paying the delivery fee to get it posted to my address, I use the shops free click and collect service and collect the order whenever I am doing my next food shop. This way, you also don’t have to be stuck at home waiting for the postman to deliver.
Use Free Amazon Prime
Shop during sale
Why pay full price, when you can get the same thing a lot cheaper, right? Many supermarkets reduce the price on their school supplies from the first week of school starting but have further reductions about 3 weeks into school starting. I tend to stock up on stationary to last at least 2 years. I do the same with school shoes. I am a bit of a snob when it comes to school shoes. I like to buy my daughter Clarks school shoes only. But I would never pay full price. I buy them during the January sales, where you can get them for about £20 instead £40. But if you have a Clarks Outlet store near you, you could get real leather shoes for about £10 instead of the full price of £40.
It is worth checking whether the retailer you are shopping with offers to price match another retailers lower price for the exact same product especially if its something big like a laptop or tablet you are planning to buy.
Some retailers don’t just price-match but are even willing to beat the cheapest price you have found for the same product. Majority of the time the retailer also needs evidence that you have found it cheaper. This could be another retailers website address. It also has to be in stock with the other retailer for it to work. Other things to remember is that each retailer that offers a price match promise, has different policies and that not all shops offer to price match.
Pound shops such as Poundland are great for stationary, lunch boxes and kids water bottles and craft materials that kids may need for their homework or projects. Despite everything being £1, I still compare prices because some things in the pound shop can be bought elsewhere such as in a supermarket for cheaper.
Compare prices online
I like to do a Google search for the item I am planning to buy, to see where I could get the same item cheaper or whether I can find an alternative that is better and cheaper. I also go to different retailers website to look whether they have a sale on their school uniforms.
Buy only what you need
By taking a shopping list with you, it’ll help you remember what you need and avoid buying things you don’t need.
Stock up extra supplies in sales
I always buy 2-3 sizes up from my daughter’s current size when I see a bargain. I do the same for stationary too. Doing this has saved me quiet a bit of money.
Reuse last years gear
I used to throw away pens, pencils, erasers and all sorts of things away at the end of the an academic year during my studies for my degree and masters despite all of the stuff was working and nothing was wrong with it. It was a ritual I had to replace everything for the new school year, which was a huge unnecessary cost. Now that I am paying everything myself, I have learned to only replace if it needs replacing.
Don’t buy all logo clothes
I wouldn’t buy every uniform item with the schools uniform. What is the point in spending so much money when the logo is covered anyway? I bought 1 logoed polo top in case my little girl wants to wear a skirt to school. But since she wears a pinafore dress majority of the time, I buy the polo tops without a logo, as the pinafore dress would cover the logo anyway. During the winter many primary school kids tend to wear their school jumper, which also covers the polo top.
Use a reusable water bottle
Using a reusable water bottle instead of keep buying small juice cartons, can save you a lot of money in the long run. I send Yasmin into school with her water bottle, which she is also able to use during her lunchtime. Sometimes she gets bored of water, so add some squash or juice to her bottle. Yasmin and I love using our reusable vacuum water bottles, not just because its cheaper and saves the environment, but also keeps our drinks cold for 24 hours during the summer months and warm for 8 hours in the colder months.
Buy gently used supplies like laptop
Instead of buying a brand new laptop or tablet, why not buy second hand or the retailers refurbished? If you or your child loves using Apple products like Yasmin and I do, then I recommend having a look at the official Apple’s refurbished products as they will also give you a warranty and clean and replace some parts like the casing of the item.
Buy out of season
I love waiting for the January sales especially for school shoes and warm coats and hats for the next winter! During the end of season sale just before autumn starts, many supermarkets and clothing stores that stock school wear reduce the prices on their summer uniforms. Buy bigger sizes and keep them for the next summer.
Check for coupon codes and use student cards
Once you have found what you need to buy, its worth doing a quick search online whether that particular retailer you are about to buy from has any coupon codes available to reduce the price a little bit. If your child has a student card or TOTUM card, check whether you could get student discount. If not why not ask a friend that may have receive student discounts?
Check the clearance area
It is always good to check out the shops clearance section whenever you are in a shop. You never know what bargains you could find there. I once found a huge pack of colourful Post It Notes reduced from £12 to £1 and Crayola Scented pens and crayons set reduced from £20 to £2.50.
Don’t buy everything at once
I know buying everything at once saves time, but usually cost a lot more monies. I like to hunt for bargains and buy throughout the year, so I can stock up for the next year.
Shop without the kids
If you have a child that cannot resist the cute looking, expensive stationary, it may be better to shop by yourself when you can to avoid going over the budget.
I know many of us just throw the receipts away. But it is good to keep the receipts in case you would like to return something that doesn’t fit properly or if you have bought too many school tops and would like to return some. Also you can make some money from just taking pictures of your receipts through an app. To find out more about it read my article: Free groceries and save £100s when you shop online
Help with the cost of school uniform
In the UK some councils offer some help towards the cost of school uniform and PE kit. Check on your local councils website whether or not they offer this kind of help. Alternatively go through the Government’s website to link to your councils website.
Unfortunately the Isle of Wight council does not offer any help with school uniforms for us islanders.
Pack lunch it
If your child is in key stage 1 (reception, year 1 or year 2), your child will be provided with free school meals. You can still make a packed lunch if you want. If you have an older child making packed lunches can be more cost effective.
My little girl has school lunches, but has a packed lunch on Fridays as she isn’t keen on fish and may not like the like the vegetarian option on Fridays.
After school clubs instead of child care
Instead of sending your child to a child minder or other out of school childcare provider, have a look at your child’s schools after school clubs as a much cheaper alternative. I currently it works out £2 per hour for my daughters after school club if she wants to join. Some schools may charge less or more. Worth asking the school what after school clubs are available and how much it costs.
Sell the old
Why not sell the outgrown uniforms on Facebook Marketplace and selling pages, carboot sale, Gumtree or Ebay to make some money to put towards new uniform? A parent with a child in the class below your child may also be interested to buy your bundle of uniform for a good price.
Hire music instruments
Musical instruments are very pricey, so why not consider a rental instrument instead of buying?
I hope my tips will help you save some money on your back to school shopping. If you know someone that may benefit from it why not share this post? If you have any other tips, why not comment below, as I am always up for learning something new.