Save money on back-to-school shopping with these tips

There’s nothing like heading back to school for the new year with a shiny new pair of shoes, a freshly bought uniform, and a spotless pencil case full of pens and pencils that haven’t been used yet.

This year, however, many of you may be contemplating the implications of back-to-school swag on your bank account and wondering what clothing and gear you can do without.

With the average school uniform costing around £300 per child per year according to data from, you may already be assessing what clothes can be ‘stretched’, literally in some cases, to be worn for another year.

And you’re probably also getting ready to chat with your child about how they probably won’t get the Smiggle pencil case this year and will have to settle for an old tin can with a geometry set.

But, despite these best efforts to get by, there are likely to be certain items that you simply need to buy. And for that, we have some tips to help you keep costs down.

Here’s how to spend less at the back-to-school store.

Check the options of second-hand school uniforms

Second hand or ‘pre-loved’, as it is now more commonly known, can provide a solution to many parents’ budget problems.

Start by going through your own closets to see if you have second-hand items from your older child or children that can be passed down.

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Check your school’s Facebook pages or WhatsApp group, or wherever you communicate with other parents, to see if used uniforms are available.

It’s also worth contacting the school and the PTA, many of which offer second-hand uniforms for a small contribution to charity.

You can also download the OLIO app, which has free listings for school uniforms, PE kits, pencil cases, lunch boxes, and other items in your area. You can also request things you need.

Take advantage of discount codes

Before you buy anything from high street stores, be sure to look for a discount code. According to Nick Drewe, founder of the discount platform WeThrift, there is a wide range available online for many of the high street footwear retailers.

He said: “Yes, go to the store in person to try on the shoe fit, but then it is recommended to look for discount codes online and buy through the retailers website.”

He added: “Also, keep an eye out for retailers that offer a warranty guarantee, with some offering refunds or replacements if the product is shoddy or if your child outgrows them within a certain period of time. Remember to always check the terms and conditions.”

Find out tricks to buy uniforms

You’re probably already familiar with some of these, but it’s worth remembering some of the best ways to save money when buying new uniforms.

Check out supermarkets where possible for the best value generic uniforms. Go online and compare prices to see which one has the cheapest deals.

Be careful with multipacks, though, advises Tessa Clarke, co-founder and CEO of OLIO.

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“Multiple purchases often help us save, but they can also trick us into buying too much,” he said. “Uniforms tend to be sold in multi-packs and for items that kids wear every day, like polo shirts, it can be a huge savings.

“For other items, like skirts and pants, try to calculate the price per item. With this method, you can find out if you will save by buying more.”

Do you really need new stationery, to-go lunch boxes and other accessories?

As mentioned above, shiny new stationery in September is the definition of sheer joy for some. But if your kids already have perfectly good pens, pencils, erasers and calculators, why change them?

Nick said: “When it comes to buying new stationery for the new term, it can be tempting to splurge on an excessive amount of different colored pens, notepads, calculators and more.

“We always recommend doing what you would do with school uniforms and doing an inventory check to see the quality of existing stationery, see what’s missing and what needs to be replaced.”

If your child is in primary school, most equipment is likely to be provided until at least year 5 or 6. Even then, most schools should be able to provide equipment to families who cannot afford it.

Bags and lunch boxes may only need to be replaced if the old ones are falling apart. Try to avoid the expensive brand name ones and look for cheaper alternatives if you need a new bag.

If your child is convinced they want the latest Hype backpack, or some other item from the brand, suggest they put it on their birthday or Christmas list for family or friends to buy. There is no rule that all school supplies must be purchased by September 1st.

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Check the uniform scholarship

Some families may be eligible for a school uniform grant from their local authority. Watch This article for more information on who is eligible and how to apply.

Adopt meal planning for packed lunches

One of the ways you can cut spending during the cost of living crisis is plan your meals and this can also apply to packed lunches.

Nick said, “Plan ahead what lunches you’ll make for them for the week before you do their grocery shopping so you can make a weekly budget and know exactly what you need to buy.

“Buying the ingredients and pantry staples you use regularly in bulk is also a convenient way to lower the cost of your grocery bills.

“Keep an eye out for items that are on sale and stock up when they get low.”

Consider cooking bulk lunches, like pasta salad, that can be used for several days. This will also save you valuable time.