Money saving ‘back to school’ tips

Buying everything your kids need to go back to school can cost a small fortune. And as your purse strings are probably already tight, it could feel like this year will be worse than ever.

You’re not alone – a survey released recently by Turn2us, a charitable service offering help and advice regarding benefits and grants, revealed that 1 in 3 of the families they interviewed worried about the costs they will incur sending their children back to school this September. But the good news is that the supermarkets have entered into a uniform price war – so there are some really good bargains to be had. And if you’re really struggling, you could be entitled to a grant.

We’ve done the research to find the best places to buy your uniform and we’ve got tips from teachers to help you save money too.

You might be entitled to a grant – check with your local authority.

Am I entitled to a grant?

Some local authorities provide grants to help families afford school uniform. It’s at the council’s discretion and they decide the terms and conditions, but you can see if there’s one available in your area by visiting

You could also apply for a grant from Family Action. They give grants of up to £200 to low income families with children – particularly families on benefits or when a parent has just lost their job. For more information and to see if you’re eligible, visit

Who better to give advice on back to school saving then the school
staff themselves? We asked a teaching assistant from a primary school
and a geography teacher from a secondary school for their advice on
looking after the pennies.

We’ve collected top tips from teacher to help you with you ‘back to school’ prep!

Primary school

Teaching assistant Helen Wade from Leeds, says:

1. See what you’ve got left over from last year that still fits your kids
– so you don’t end up buying things you don’t need. With my kids I
found that their polo shirts often fit, but their trousers weren’t long
enough – so I’d shorten them into a pair of shorts.

2. Go to somewhere cheap like Tesco or Asda for your uniform and don’t
buy too much, because kids grow. There’s no point buying five pairs of
trousers because you’ll end up throwing them away. And then you can buy a
few more items as you need them through the year.

3. Wash the clothes properly and look after them – you don’t need to
throw them away just because they’ve got paint on them. Get a good
washing powder and give them a good wash.

4. Label all the clothes – that way the school can help if things go

5. If you’re really struggling, don’t be afraid to ask the school for
help. Speak to one of the teachers or the head teacher – they’re bound
to have some ideas to help. Some schools sell second hand uniforms, or
they might be able to suggest somewhere else. They might also be able to
refer you to somewhere that you can get financial help.

6. Packed lunches are probably cheaper then school dinners if they’re healthy – but not if you’re filling them with chocolate bars and cans of coke.

7. In primary school there’s no need to spend money on stationary because
all the equipment is provided at school.

8. Don’t think you have to buy all your back to school stuff in one go –
if your kids don’t need winter coats yet, don’t buy them yet.

‘Big school’ seems so far away when they’re small: but it can’t help to feel prepared!

Secondary school

Geography teacher Victoria Crawford from Coventry, says:

1. Check the school’s uniform requirements to make sure you’re getting
the right things. In particular, P.E. kit can be quite specific.

2. In the way that we used to hitch up our skirts, girls nowadays are
putting white and black vest tops over their uniforms. Most schools
don’t allow them to do this – so don’t buy them. 

3. Name everything. You don’t need to buy fancy naming tags, permanent
marker will be fine. 

4. Don’t buy gel pens or tippex – most schools don’t allow students to
use them.

5. The basics that they need for a pencil case are: a ruler, 5 HB
pencils, 5 biros (black or blue only), rubber, pencil sharpener (with a
bit to catch the sharpenings), a stapler (to stop them losing work) and
clear hole punched wallets. It’s also a good idea to get clear covering
film to cover your exercise books with. 

6. Many schools now have a cashless system – so your child will get an
account which you can add money to by cheque. So only send them with
£2-£3 on their first day – they won’t need any more than that.

7. Don’t let them take iPods or mobile phones into school – they’re not
allowed them and they could get lost or stolen. 

8. If you’re really struggling to afford the uniform, contact the school
reception – the school will probably have a hardship fund and might be
able to help you out. Lots of school receptions are open during the
summer, so your child won’t have the embarrassment of going back to
school without the right uniform. 

9. You shouldn’t need to buy text books – they should be provided by the
school. And don’t buy revision guides from the shops straight away- lots
of schools get them subsidised and can sell them cheaper. Some schools
give students revision guides for free. 

10. A computer and a printer at home are really beneficial – but your
child won’t get their work marked down if they don’t do it on a computer
(unless it’s IT specific work).

11. Memory sticks are great for backing up work and can be bought really
cheaply from Staples, supermarkets and some libraries for as little as £5.

Where to buy the cheapest uniform? We’ve got it covered with our affordable store-by-store back to school uniform guide.

Do you have any top tips? Share them in the comment section. We’ll add them to this article if we like them!

Where to next?

Back to school essentials

Free school meals: all you need to know

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