The cost of buying school uniforms, tech and kit is an incredible £143.39 per child, up £11.20 on last year, according to money transfer service WorldRemit. One mum is working hard to cut her spend as the cost of living crisis bites.
Busy mum Sarah Sturgess has learned a lot about saving money working for baby and toddler shop hippychick.com, and is keen to share her back-to-school money saving hacks.
Sarah, who lives in Bridgwater, Somerset, starts shopping as soon as the uniform sales begin and typically buys the next size up, or maybe two sizes. “I opt for one that will fit but with a bit of growing room.”
Most schools now offer a uniform swap shop. “A new PE T-shirt recently cost me nearly £10. From the swap shop it would have been £2 or £3.”
If you need to invest in expensive tech, consider holding out until Black Friday or Amazon Prime day, Sarah, 40, says. “Avoid buying character-themed backpacks and lunchboxes. They date quickly and normally carry a 30% premium.
Lost school uniform is the bane of every parent’s life, she adds. “Label everything clearly, in several places if you can, so if their shorts do make their way into someone else’s bag, they will be returned.”
Now for her biggest money saving tip. When Sarah does her shopping, she tries to avoid taking children Liv, 13, Freddie 12, Heidi, 10, Declan, 4, with her. “Pester power is exhausting and it pushes up the cost of everything you do. Leaving them behind saves a fortune.”
The back-to-school shopping list is endless. Yours could include a school bag, lunch bag, water bottle, pencil case, colouring pencils, handwriting pen, pencil, eraser, ruler and pencil sharpener.
It might also include polo shirts, jumpers, shoes, socks, trousers or shorts, shirts, coat, gym bag, plimsolls, T-shirts, shorts, exercise books and hats.
Abigail Yearley, spokesperson at TopCashback, says before you rush to the shops, sort through your children’s wardrobe and cupboards to see what can be reused.
The big supermarkets typically run back-to-school events with discounts and money-back promises, so keep your eyes peeled, she says. “Discounters like Aldi are known for bargain back-to-school events, but stock gets snapped up. Also, checking their middle aisle for cheap stationery and lunch boxes.”
Check if your child’s school or Parent Teacher Association (PTA) has a second-hand selling group, where you may be able to pick up pre-loved items.
Otherwise check social media sites and apps such as Facebook Marketplace, WhatsApp groups, and recycling apps like Freecycle.
Double check the school uniform policy in full before you buy anything, Yearley adds.
Help others out by donating old school clothes and equipment you no longer need, says Tessa Clarke, co-founder of free-sharing platform OLIO. “Our research shows that parents are still throwing away an average of 13 school items a year, despite them being perfectly useable.”
Some parents will be eligible for a £200 school uniform grant, typically those on benefits such as Universal Credit and Child Tax Credit, or whose child receives free school meals.
Not every council in England offers this, but you can do an online check on Gov.uk here.
Look out for offers, too. Which? found Kickers is running a family deal that offers 20% off if you buy two pairs of school shoes, or 25% for three pairs.
Aldi is currently selling lots of school uniform items, including a girl’s black pleated skirt for just £1.75.
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Sports Direct is offering 10% off selected school shoes online until August 31, with code SCHOOLSHOES10.
Start-Rite Shoes fitting expert Wayne Lubbock says there is no industry norm for shoe sizes are always check the fit on your child’s feet before buying, with growing room built in.
“The better the fit, the longer they will last, and the better value for money. Fast fashion is a false economy, so go for quality if you can.”
Polishing school shoes every week will make them last longer and they will look smarter as well, Lubbock adds.
From September, a new law in England will force state schools to remove unnecessary branded items from their uniform, says Adrian Lowery, financial analyst at investing and coaching platform Bestinvest.
“This will allow parents to shop around or hand clothes down more easily, but for many schools it might not kick in until September 2023. Schools can still retain some branding on items like blazers.”