Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Back To School Savings Challenge

As the Summer Holidays race on, thoughts are turning to the big Back To School shopping trip to prepare for September.  The shops are filled with all types of back to school gear which can be a bit overwhelming.  It is tricky knowing where to start and decide exactly what your children really need.

The Back to School Spending Report surveyed over 2,000 people to find out how people are spending in these cash-strapped times and how they fit the new school year into their finances. The key findings from the report found that 35% of people feel burdened by the expense of kitting kids out for the school year and 15% always spend more than they expected on back to school.  However the stand out stat was that it costs a whopping £121 to send one child back to school every September. This figure includes the cost of shoes, uniform, stationery and school bags.

Most Wanted is the lifestyle magazine from UK's #1 money saving site  They are dedicated to smarter shopping and are looking for ways to bring down the cost of the Back To School spend! By asking  parents to share tips and guidance on saving money and challenging bloggers to seek the best high street back-to-school basics, all for under £80, they are looking to find the best uniform, shoes, trainers, sports kit and stationery sets on the high street.

Kizzy is about to go into Class 5 next term.  She loves to be involved in the back to school shop and enjoys picking out new things for the new term.  I have been kitting out my kids for school since my eldest started Infants back in 1993!  So I have had lots of practice and have lots of experience in this field.  I love getting bargains and saving money is very important to me as a mum to five children.

back to school, uniform
Ready For School

  • My first school uniform buying tip is to forget designer labels!  The supermarkets stock uniform must-haves for incredibly cheap prices.  If your kids are like mine, their polo shirts get discoloured and dirty very quickly, thanks to spilled lunches and messy art lessons. Asda stocks a two pack with lovely scalloped collars from just £2.50.  A few packs will see Kizzy throughout the whole academic year.  You only need to have enough in use for one to wear, one in the wash and one in the wardrobe.  They wash up really well.   Asda's Teen Bootcut Stretch Trousers start at size 10-11 years making them a really trendy option for young girls who want to look and feel grown-up at school and cost just £7 a pair.  PE shorts, T-shirts and tracksuits are also available at low prices.  You don't need to kit them out in Adidas and Nike...if your child is like mine, they will lose half of their sportswear throughout the school year anyway.  It is much less galling to replace a £2 PE sweatshirt than one that cost £25!
  • Tesco also stocks a great range of cheap school uniform essentials and if you take advantage of the Summer Clubcard Exchange you can get £10's worth of clothing for every £5 Clubcard voucher!
  • Our biggest uniform cost is the compulsory dark green, logo school sweatshirt which costs £15, but in true frugal style I bought Kizzy the larger size last year, making it fine for another year!  If any of your child's uniform still fits, then carry on wearing it!
  • Shoes can pose an expensive problem for us as Kizzy has fallen arches and needs good support meaning that  many off the shelf cheap shoes are inappropriate for her feet.  Deichmann shoe shops sell a huge range of branded shoes and their serve-yourself policy allows us to try on as many pairs as needed to find a pair that supports Kizzy's feet.  The great thing is that they always have great prices and they also have a Buy One Get One Half Price offer on their Back To School range, meaning we can get both Kizzy's school shoes and PE trainers (non-designer of course) for less cash!  I don't go for top designer labels as their feet grow so fast.  And if her shoes from last year still fit her feet, we give them a quick polish and she is happy to wear them until she needs the next size up.

new shoes, uniform
School Shoes!

  • Making sure that all your purchases can be returned to your child if they end up in the Lost Property basket at school  is a really important money saving idea.  You can buy iron-in or sew-on labels, but I opt for a laundry marking pen which costs just 98p in Morrison's.  Most school uniform items have a label inside for putting on the owner's name, so a quick session of name writing will have your child's name prominently displayed on each garment.  
  • Stationery can be expensive if your buy one of everything for each of your children.  I have learned however, that at Primary School children really only need a pencil case, a couple of handwriting pens, a couple of pencils, a sharpener, a rubber and a 6" ruler.  Forget the geometry sets, calculators, glue sticks, felt tips, highlighters, fountain pens, Sharpie markers and other paraphernalia.  They are not needed at this stage.  Most stuff beyond the basics are supplied in class if needed.  Plain versions of the essentials cost pennies, but if your kids want something a bit fancier then Wilkos current stationery range includes some great designs such as Photography, Nostalgia, Geo and Sweet Shop and currently have a 3 for 2 offer!

Wilkinsons, stationery

  • Another trick I have learned is that after September, shops like Asda and Wilkos sell off their Back To School stationery with prices up to 75% off.   I stock up on all the bits and bobs we need, keeping them in a big plastic box in the garage.  I then have a constant supply of pencils and rubbers to give the kids all year round.  (My supply of fancy pens and pencils also make great party bag gifts or birthday presents throughout the year.)

  • Lunch boxes can be really expensive.  I have paid loads of money for the latest, zip up, padded design in the past.  But one thing I have discovered is that they get really dirty, really quickly and end up having to be replaced just as quickly as a cheaper version.  Nothing really beats a plastic tupperware box which can have the lid  customized with stickers to make it personalized and easily recognisable in the pile of One Direction lunchboxes that will appear in the classroom come September.  The box can be properly washed every night keeping it hygienically clean.  Popping in a frozen insert will keep the food inside safe.  Drinks bottles are the same, don't waste a fortune buying a fancy will still chew the top off!  You can buy a cheap one from Poundland for £1 and replace it regularly keeping it hygienic and safe.  

  • School Bags can be another big expense if you let them be!  Up until secondary school, children don't have much to carry to and from school.  They do not need something as big as a suitcase!  A simple zip up rucksack, tote bag or a messenger bag is perfect for school.   Wilkinsons, Primark or Asda are great shops to pick up a bag for about £6.

Sending your child back to school needn't be a huge expense.  A sensible , thrifty approach needn't mean that your child misses out on looking good and feeling confident walking through the school gates for a new school year.  Involving them in the shopping and extolling the virtues of saving money is an opportunity to teach them some valuable life lessons.  Remind them that by spending less on their uniform means more money for the fun things in life!!

Disclaimer:  I received payment for contributing editorial input for the back to school report.


  1. Personally I think you get what you pay for when it comes to school uniform and the cheaper 'value' ranges trousers and skirts are usually cheap thin material that washes badly and irons just as badly. Totally agree about the bags part - fashion is so fickle and paying the earth means you are sure to be out of pocket when the next trend hits. xx

  2. Is that a new hair cut I see before me, Kizzy?

  3. My mum said that...but it's from last September. This year she refuses to get it cut!

  4. I wondered, because it's so much shorter than all the rest of your pictures. It looks great long though, you've all got gorgeous hair to keep long. Wish I could say the same about me!

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