Cut the cost of school kit

Save money on school essentials with our 3-step back-to-school action plan. 

Getting ready for a new school year can be expensive. With kids outgrowing clothes fast and feeling pressured to have the latest gear, it’s no wonder many families end up overspending their budget.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. To help you cut the cost of school essentials, we’ve put together a 3-step back-to-school action plan.

Step 1: Get organised
A little forward planning can lead to big savings. The key is to get clear on what your children do and don’t need, so you don’t end up buying unnecessary things.

Make a shopping list of everything your kids need for the autumn term, and stick to it. Here’s how:

  • Go through the uniform list provided by the school (if you don’t have it, try searching their website).
  • Decide how many of each item you need. This will depend on your child (and how mucky they get!) but you’ll probably want multiple (2-3) shirts and trousers/skirts. For items that need less washing, buy fewer.
  • Unless they’re changing school, get your kids to try on last year’s uniform and check what fits and what needs replacing. Tick everything you’ve already got off the school uniform list.
  • Check their bags, lunch kit, pencil cases and stationery. Add only items that are missing or need replacing to the shopping list.
  • You should be left with a list of what you actually need. 

Don’t forget: You can save money by mending uniform rather than rebuying - and it can be easy to do. Check out the Love Your Clothes website for handy videos on repairing ripped pockets, fallen hems and other quick fixes.

Step 2: Buy smartNow you’ve got your list of essentials, the next step is to be smart with your shopping. The aim is to bag a bargain and - where possible - buy things that will last.

Second-hand uniform is a great way to go. Because kids outgrow things fast, and parents sometimes pre-order uniforms then change their minds about their choice of school, you can often find nearly new items for sale at bargain prices. As a bonus, buying second-hand is an eco-friendly choice!

  • Many schools sell second-hand uniform year-round or organise sales - so check what’s on offer at yours. (It’s worth bearing in mind for the future even if it’s too late for the coming term.) 
  • If your school has an online ‘hub’ for parents, check for second-hand uniform adverts, or post a ‘wanted’ advert with the items you need.
  • Facebook groups are another great place for ads. There are various Bristol groups for local people who are looking to buy or sell (e.g. ‘Items for sale in BS30, BS16, BS15, BS5’), so see if you can find one for your area.
  • We’ve also seen plenty of uniform items for sale on Gumtree.
  • Keep your eye on eBay and the charity shops.

Don’t forget: You can create funds for your back-to-school budget by doing some selling of your own. Any outgrown uniform you’ve got that’s still in good nick - just sell it on!

Can’t find what you’re after second-hand? Your lowest-price option for ‘generic’ new uniform is probably the major supermarkets (Aldi, Asda, Lidl, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco). If you do go for these, bear in mind that paying less can mean compromising on quality - so check before you buy that the clothing is well made, with sturdy seams and fabric.


Better quality kit may last longer, so if you can afford to pay a bit more, search discount and outlet stores like TKMaxx for deals. 

Step 3: Make it lastWhen it comes to uniform (and everything else), more care usually means less cost. Look after your back-to-school purchases in the right way, and you could avoid having to rebuy damaged or lost items.Here are four simple ways to make your children’s school uniform last:

  • Add nametags to everything - it’s worth it to stop kit from going astray. We’ve heard great things about Stitkins Labels. Or grab a fabric pen and write your child’s name on the sewn-in labels in their clothes.
  • Dab clear nail polish on shirt buttons - to help stop the threads from fraying and keep the buttons in place.
  • Wash clothes inside out, at 30°C - the cooler temperature helps them keep their shape and colour.
  • Use bicarbonate of soda to brighten your whites - visit the Love your Clothes website to learn how.

Know something we don’t? Share your money-saving tips for back-to-school with us on Twitter using the hashtag #LowCostSchoolKit.


Need to spread the cost of school kit? Our Family Finance Plan offers an affordable way to borrow. 

Published by
Team BCU
Posted on
10 August 2017