The back-to-school shop: How to save money and cut costs


Money Saving Tips
General Finance

Ways to cut costs:

Buy second hand

Recent guidance states that schools must make second-hand uniforms accessible for parents and carers. You can find out if your children’s school runs a uniform swap shop or sell uniforms donated by parents.

đź’ˇTop tip: If your child is starting a new school, you can check if there are any parent groups on Facebook for the school. These are usually good places to find parents selling second-hand!

Non-branded uniforms

Schools now need to follow government guidance to keep the cost of uniforms down.This includes having fewer branded items, which will make uniforms cheaper overall.

💡 Top tip: The school’s uniform policy might say that while uniforms with their logo on are preferred, they aren’t actually essential - it’s always best to check!

Buy bigger

For pricier items, such as school jumpers or blazers, always buy a little bigger than your child needs. These items might be loose-fitting or baggy at first, but your children will grow into them eventually - and it’ll save you money further down the line!


For items like lunchboxes, pencil cases or school bags - if they’re not broken or stained - it’s worth giving them a wash (hand wash or gentle washes in the machine) and it’ll leave them looking brand new; saving you more pennies. If last year’s shoes or school uniform still fit, it’s worth making the most of them before buying brand new. You never know, they might last months!

💡Top tip: If you wait a few months to buy new, you’ll often find things in the sales or at lower prices once the back-to-school surge has died down.

Saving money on school equipment

If your child is just about to go into secondary school, the shopping list for them will probably grow. This could include a laptop, tablet, or sports equipment and textbooks.

If your child’s school gives a reading list for books you need to buy, you may be able to ask for the reading list in advance, to give you more time to spread costs or to buy them second-hand.

Stationery like exercise books or folders are usually given out by teachers. If they aren’t, you can buy stationery in bulk off sites like Amazon, and shops like The Works, and have enough to last a couple of school years. For pencil cases and pens/pencils/crayons/maths equipment, try places like Poundland or supermarkets. They’re often much cheaper than the branded stores.

đź’ˇ Top tip: Look out for sales on all of these items throughout the year, and there are also some charities and schemes that loan or give children second-hand laptops for schoolwork. The digital poverty alliance currently helps to supply laptops in 5 areas across the UK.

Further help

thinkmoney is made up of people from all walks of life, including plenty of parents who need ways to cut costs too. So, we hope a few of these resources have been able to help make your shopping trips that little bit easier đź’™

  • Don’t ever be embarrassed to speak to the school if you are unable to fund everything on your child’s uniform or equipment list. They might be able to help you find the things you need for very little cost, or direct you to some financial support.

  • If you’re on a low income, you might be eligible to apply to your local council for a grant to help pay for school uniform costs. Money Saving Expert has information on school uniform grants in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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