It’s nearing that time of year again. Whether you’re an old hand at preparing your kids for going back to school or a nervous mum about to pack your little one off to school for the first time, you’ll have started thinking about getting them kitted out with everything they need. Fortunately, MoneyMagpie is here to help you find it all for less.
- Find out exactly what you need
- Finding second-hand uniform
- Getting the right school shoes
- Top shopping tips
- Back to school deals
Not surprisingly, the back to school rush can prove to be a bit of a strain on your finances. There is some good news this year: according to Verdict Research, school uniform prices are at their cheapest.
Plus, research from shopping search engine Twenga has also shown that in Britain we can potentially save up to 50% by shopping around online for schoolwear because there’s a huge range of different prices out there.
So, the MoneyMagpies are here to show you the best way to be a savvy shopper and get everything you need for a much less than you’d expect. Just follow our simple guide to school uniform shopping success!
The school will usually provide you with a list of everything your child will need, but if you’re in any doubt have a look at the excellent Netmums website. They’ve got a whole section of advice for mums whose kids are starting school. It includes a brilliant uniform checklist, as well as ideas for their lunchboxes and loads more. Sainsbury’s also has a pretty handy checklist so you don’t forget anything.
It’s possible that your child’s school might run a second-hand sale or a swap shop for uniforms. This is well worth finding out about. You might be able to get the information you need on the school website, or try your local education authority (LEA). The Schools Web Directory has a list of local council websites where you can find LEA information which will usually point you in the direction of any second-hand sales.
If you don’t manage to find anything that way, have a look at Patched Elephant, a brilliant marketplace website entirely dedicated to second-hand school uniform. It’s free to join – you simply search for what you want and it will then list everything available. You can even find a specific school’s uniform!
If you see something you want you just get in touch with the individual seller to arrange the transaction. You can, of course, also use it to sell anything your kids have grown out of. It also has listings for uniforms for guides, scouts, brownies and the like, and for musical instruments and sports kit.
Buying new items
Of course, even if you manage to get some second-hand bargains, there will still be some items that you will need to buy new. There are simply hundreds of places where you can buy school uniform, with shops competing against each other to offer the cheapest back-to-school deal.
A good starting point is the major supermarkets. The big four – Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons are offering all the essential bits of uniform for a combined price of about £10. Though it is worth bearing in mind that the advertised prices are based on younger children, so if your kids are older be prepared to pay slightly more.
You can also get very reasonably-priced uniform from Debenhams and Marks & Spencer. Plus you should be able to get all your child’s sports kit, school bags and coats from places like these.
It’s also worth checking out the School Uniform Shop which is great value, and offers free delivery on orders over £35.
If your child is demanding a brand rucksack or sports kit, a great solution to keep them happy without spending a fortune is SportsDirect.com. They sell off last seasons stock of sports wear, shoes, bags, equipment, all at up to 80% off. You can get a Nike rucksack for less than £5, keeping your child and your bank account happy.
So you’ve got the uniform, now for the shoes. You will probably have noticed that most of the shops listed above stock cheap school shoes as well. However, the Moneymagpies know that mums want to make sure their children’s feet are well looked after, which might mean paying a bit more to get a better quality pair of shoes. We’re big fans of Start-Rite shoes. Ok, they might not be the cheapest, (most of the childrens’ shoes are around £30 a pair) but they are dedicated to fitting your child’s shoes properly in order to ensure those all important healthy feet. The website has loads of excellent advice on looking after your children’s feet, and how to make sure their shoes fit them correctly. There’s even a downloadable foot gauge and a fitting calculator so you can find out exactly what size your child’s feet are.
If you really don’t want to spend that much, then there are plenty of cheaper shoes available from the major supermarkets, usually priced at around £10. It is also worth looking at places like Priceless Shoes, who stock girls and boys school shoes from as little as £6.
All the other extras
Once you’ve got all their clothes sorted, there’s still a whole range of other essentials to consider, from stationery and bags to lunchboxes. It’s here that the supermarkets excel in value for money. Stationery shops will advertise back-to-school savings on all kinds of items, but you’re almost certain to be able to find something similar in the supermarkets for a fraction of the cost.
Here are a few extra things to bear in mind:
- If the school require you to buy uniform from a specific place it can often be more expensive, so only buy the essentials (i.e. the items with the school logos on) from there, and get staples such as shirts and socks from a cheaper store.
- Using second-hand sources is especially worthwhile if your child’s uniform has to be bought from a specific place – they really can save you serious money.
- Buy everything NOW! It might sound stupid, but if you wait until the end of August, you’ll find huge queues and limited stock in all the shops.
- Easy-iron items are a great idea! Think of the number of times you’ll have to wash and iron those little shirts…
- Try to find the happy medium between quality and price. Buying a whole set of new things for your child can be extremely expensive, but don’t skimp on items where you want good quality e.g. shoes.
- Similarly, your child might be set on having the most expensive rucksack money can buy, but don’t give in! You can go for something more in the middle of the range, and if they’re still adamant, suggest that perhaps they could put some of their pocket money towards it.