Last Updated on July 20, 2023 by Melissa S.
Here in the UK, school uniforms are commonplace compared to other parts of the world, and there is much to be said for them actually saving money, as well as time trying to get your child ready for school in the morning rush.
However, they can be expensive, especially when kitting your child out all in one go for the new school year ahead. With that in mind, here’s my top tips to save money on school uniform.
Only Buy Essentials from the Branded Supplier
You may be reading this thinking “but my school insists on all branded uniform“, however, from August 2022, The School Uniform Bill sets out guidelines for schools with the aim to make uniforms more affordable for parents ahead of the new term in September 2022. This means that schools cannot insist families buy from one supplier, over a supermarket for example.
Personally, having tried the supermarket cardigans I prefer the branded logo ones, but in terms of grey pinafores, skirts and polo shirts, I go for supermarket items and the quality has been fine.
Plan Ahead For Growing Kids
Buying a size up from your child’s current size ensures items will last much longer. It will also help with the next tip.
The Earlier You Shop, The Better – Especially In Retail Stores
Noone wants to be scrabbling around the shops in the last week of August trying to get everything ready in a panic. The chances of finding the correct sizes in stock at this point is also slim. If you’re following the previous tip, buying a size up means you can shop earlier without worrying about it being too small once September rolls around.
I try and get everything bought by the end of July, aside from shoes just in case there is a growth spurt!
Mend and Alter where possible
If you have trousers, pinafores or skirts that can be altered, this can be a great way of maximising the life of your current uniform. Even if, like me, your sewing skills are not up to the job, paying for alterations could work out significantly cheaper than buying new items.
Even better, if you have a friend or relative that can do this in exchange for a favour or small gift, it might work out more cost effective than going to a clothing altering service.
Understand Which Items Your Kids Prefer And Which They Avoid
Of course, they may not like any of their uniform much, but if you have the option between cotton and polo shirts, or zip up pinafores and skirts for example, ask your children which options they prefer. There’s no point spending a small fortune on a full set of one item only to have tears and tantrums and never choosing it over the other options in their uniform wardrobe.
My daughter has a “thing” about scratchy shirts so we stick to polo shirts over cotton shirts, which are easier to wash and iron anyway, so that’s an extra win for me.
Buy from a used school uniform sale at your school
Many schools have these in place already, but if yours doesn’t, speak to the school or PTA about arranging one. The great thing about uniform sales is parents can’t wait to get rid of outsized clothing, but branded items especially are only useful for children who attend that school.
This means that donation levels are usually high, and the items are much cheaper than buying new. Used uniform sales are extremely popular at my daughter’s school, with most items selling for £1 each. The added bonus is all the money goes back into school funds, as well as benefitting the environment by reusing old clothing.
Hand down uniform to younger siblings or friends
This might seem like stating the obvious, but it is worth including. If uniform is still good quality, it is worth holding onto it for a younger sibling, even if it may be a few years before it will fit.
Store it away and keep a note of what you have to avoid the risk of forgetting and rebuying in a couple of years!
Label, Label, Label!
As a former primary school teacher, I cannot emphasise this enough! If items come into school without a nametag in them and then get lost, the likelihood of getting them back is severely reduced.
Let’s not forget that the thing about uniform is that every child is wearing the same, so other than narrowing it down by size, which is never a surefire way of identifying which class it has come from, there is slim chance of identifying it by sight alone.
And when 12 identical jumpers have been left on the field after playtime on a hot day, you can imagine the chances get even slimmer. Children seem strangely reluctant to claim lost items also, which certainly doesn’t help.
My Nametags offer a wide range of stickers, including iron on options for uniform, as well as stickers suitable for pencil cases, water bottles and other personal items.
The great thing about these stickers is they are washing machine and dishwasher proof, so your labels should stay securely in place.
Another great option is Stamptastic where you can order a personalised stamper to label uniform.
Be Conservative In Multiple Purchases
If you’re not sure how many of each item you will need, it’s always better to buy less than overbuy and waste money.
Generally speaking, I would suggest a clean polo shirt or shirt for each day, then 3 jumpers / cardigans and 3 trousers / skirts / pinafores.
You can then up this to 5 if it’s not proving to be enough. Smaller children tend to get messier as they are developing their fine motor skills so certainly for Reception and Year 1 you may find that a clean uniform is needed for every day!
Stagger Your School Uniform Purchases
On a similar note, although it’s nice to start the new term in September with everything new, if you still have some items from the previous year that will fit, this could allow you to spread the cost over the year. Maybe you only need 2 new jumpers in September, but then buy some more in the Spring that will again tide you over into the start of the next academic year.
Buy School Shoes from Outlet Stores
Shoes for growing feet need to offer support, as well as last, which is why many parents prefer to buy from a brand such as Clarks over cheaper supermarket options.
The good news is Clarks have outlet stores across the UK, where you can pick up the same quality school shoes for often up to half the price. They may be the styles that are no longer available in the main stores, but plain black school shoes are one item that does not change that much.
Another option for affordable but quality school shoes is Marks & Spencer. I picked some school shoes up for my daughter for under £30 and they managed to last the whole school year!
Take Advantage of Retail Stores Sales
Brands like Marks & Spencer, Matalan and Supermarket chains often have promotions such as 20% off school uniform, but these tend to run out of the peak demand August and September, so keep an eye out by checking their website or subscribing to emails.
You can always stock up in the next size up for future use, too.
Set up a savings pot for school uniform to spread the cost
Setting aside just £10-20 a month could give you £120-£240 a year towards the cost of school uniform. Many online banks such as Starling and Monzo offer virtual savings spaces where your money can be transferred and withdrawn instantly to keep it separate from the rest of your money.
I use sinking funds like this in many areas of my spending in order to spread the cost over the year.
Remember, uniform is on sale all year round, not just in August!
Finally, it’s worth remembering that you don’t need to buy everything in one go ready for September, apart from when first starting the school, of course. In fact, I think because we first have to buy everything in one go, it sets a habit to continue doing the same every year.
Although it’s great to be organised and get uniform shopping out the way, but it’s not like preparing for Christmas where everything has to be done by a certain day. As long as your child has the uniform they need to start the new school year, you can always top it up throughout the following months.
How Do You Save Money on School Uniform?
Do you have any other tips to save money on school uniform that aren’t covered in this post? Leave a comment and share your tips with the community.
About the Author
Melissa is a working parent who left behind a senior management salary for a better work/life balance. Following her own money saving and money making strategies she was able to clear debt and live a life she loves. Blogging, selling digital products on Etsy and selling preloved items on eBay are her favourite side hustles. Read her story here.