Back to school: How to save money

budget children Aug 13, 2020

Updated by Writer Sierra Kamara

Hello Everyone! Summer’s over, and it’s that busy time of the year again, where parents and carers are asking themselves where the summer has gone. 

Now, Mums, Dads and carers are frantically running around in an attempt to prepare their children for school. 

Spending and parenting go hand in hand, so it is particularly important that we find the most clever ways to shop quickly and efficiently, whilst saving.

This week it was officially announced that the UK was entering its first recession in 11 years, not to mention the effects of COVID-19 which means everything needs to be done differently, and there are many more challenges. 

Everything currently screams uncertainty: when will the children be going to school? Will it be permanent or part-time? How do I save money in this economy?

This is where I come in - I will be helping parents and carers find the best solutions for these issues, and the most effective methods when it comes to shopping for school uniforms and supplies.

This week Boss Of My Money will be speaking to 50 Mums and Dads to hear what they have to say about this confusing period and how they are getting through it. 

They will be sharing their best tips, favourite deals and the top quality shops they buy from.

These conversations will be used to create an 18 Step Guide on How to save money whilst school shopping for the children! 

There will also be an exclusive interview with Sally, a working mum of 4, who will be sharing her greatest tips on organisation for the academic year ahead.

Here is the 18 step guide on How to Spend Smart for the academic year.

Spend Smart: 18 Step Guide (SS18)


  1. Always buy good quality items, so your child understands the value.

  2. Cheaper isn’t always better - check for quality! Buying cheap sometimes means buying more! However, it’s important that you buy what you can afford. It might mean that you buy for 6 months and then re-stock. Remember using credit cards to do shopping will get you into more debt. Buy what is affordable and within your means.
  3. Only buy a compulsory uniform from the school. Buy the essential "logo" branded items from the school uniform shop; blazers, jumpers and P.E kit (if branded). Contact the school to find out if the uniform policy for logos, blazers and branded uniform is required, and if there are any more pieces of clothing needed such as facial coverings. 

  4. One recommended place for uniforms is M&S, where the quality is unparalleled. They are very easy to iron and remain in great condition (e.g no bobbles or shrinkage) throughout the year. Others are Aldi, Lidl and Tesco, where the prices are reasonably cheap and the quality is also good.

  5. The best time to start shopping is during the months of May and June, as stores are normally offering up to 20% off which is a huge saving. Amazon and eBay are also great outlets for stationery and uniform, it's also rather cheap. 

  6. The off-season is also a great time to make purchases. So, get the trousers in the summer and shorts in the winter. 

  7. Bulk buy and go for the next size up. Children are growing all the time, and you don’t always know what sizes they will grow into. 

  8. When it comes to stationery, the key thing is to Bulk Buy, especially during sales. For kids, you’ll always need paper, pencils, crayons, markers, glue, erasers... so get them when there are a massive sale and stock up! However, if your child has a tendency to lose stationery, buying it cheaper might be a better option. Helix for stationery (find it on Amazon) is fairly reasonable and good quality. If you have a more expensive taste, Staedtler brand is also excellent quality.

  9. Have a uniform fund. This is so that by the time you need to buy a uniform, the money is available and ready. Start off by saving £20-30 every month towards term/annual school shopping. 

  10. Footwear is the biggest expense. Purchase this during the sale and buy ½ a size up, so they can grow into them.

  11. If you’re going away on holiday, consider shopping abroad for a cheaper and good quality uniform. 

  12. Kids will lose things, tear their clothing and outgrow it. So be prepared for that unexpected extra uniform spend. 

  13. Shop around so that you get the best deal and save save save!

  14. Ensure that you always have additional school uniform due to COVID and that uniforms are washed every day to prevent and slow the spread of COVID

  15. Parents need to keep up to date on the uniform policies because things will be constantly changing due to COVID. 

  16. If you are struggling with buying school uniforms, contact your local authority or child’s school directly for assistance.

  17. Contact the school shops to find out how much longer uniform orders will take, that way you could delay purchasing until you have certainty that your child/children are going back to school. 

  18. Ask about refund and returns policy, you may be able to get a refund or exchange for a gift card.

Here are a few stores that have some great offers on uniforms and stationary:

  • Clarks outlet is great for shoes. 
  • Matalan outlet is brilliant for socks, hats, raincoats, gloves etc.
  • H&M, Primark and TK Maxx also do good quality and reasonably priced vests, underwear and socks.
  • Wilko, Tesco, Asda and The Works are best known for good quality stationery. Tesco is also doing 100 days guarantee.

  • Poundland also does cheap stationery in bulk, perfect for your child who has a tendency to lose it.

‘Super-Mum Sally’

Now, that I've shared some tips, it’s time for us to talk about organisation. It's one thing preparing for the back-to-school season, but it’s another challenge staying organised and keeping to your budget throughout the year. 

When it comes to this, my good friend Sally, whom I call ‘super-mum Sally’ is a pro at this and was happy to share some tips with us.

As you will find out, Sally has back to school on lockdown:

“I usually buy 10 bottoms and 10 tops, and two pairs of shoes for each child.

I usually wash uniforms bi-weekly to preserve colour and air dry to cut down on shrinkage. Once I know the uniform colours, I buy in bulk and plan ahead, keeping my eye out for sales. This ensures I have each child covered and able to stick to my budget.”

As well as this, Sally uses a drawer system to keep her household organised, Sally says,

“It allows me to prepare their clothes for the week. It opens the door for independence and keeps everything organized for the week. Weekends are wash and iron days.”

Although each household will not be the same, one thing we can learn from Sally is that when it comes to shopping for back to school and staying on top of the school year- being intentional and having a system that works for you and kids will take the stress away!


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