Back to School – How to make it cheaper

back to school

It’s hard to believe that the kids will go back to school next week. Another summer has flown by very quickly, probably because I’ve been off work as well. Back to school season can get very expensive though. New school uniform needs to be brought. School shoes need to be purchased and it all adds up. I’m lucky that Lottie is only going into year 5 so uniform still consists of a skirt, polo shirt and red cardigan. I dread to think how much it will cost when she starts secondary school.

School Uniform

I don’t actually mind the cost of school uniform. When you consider how much it gets worn over the course of the school year then it works out pretty cheap per wear. It just seems expensive because it gets bought in one go, whereas other clothes are brought for Lottie as I see them. I don’t buy the cheapest uniform either. I have experimented with various ones over the years and have found that you get what you pay for.

Sainsburys are definitely the best of the supermarkets. However, this year Lottie will be going back to school in Matalan uniform this year. We tried it last year and it washed really well. The cardigans were still bright red for quite a while and they do the stretchy material trousers and skirts that Lottie prefers. However, the deciding factor for using Matalan was the discount code I received in the middle of August offering free delivery and 20% off all orders over £50. I could also go to Matalan through TopCashback and get cashback on my purchase which made it even cheaper. I buy 5 complete sets of uniform because Lottie is messy and I am busy. So in total I think her uniform cost me £48.71 when the cashback is taken off the cost as well.

School Shoes

I always buy Lottie her shoes at Clarks. I don’t actually have much choice because she has such wide feet that they are about the only place where we can get ones to fit her properly. There is no denying that Clarks shoes are expensive, however I think cheaper school shoes are a false economy. I forever hear other mums moaning that their cheaper school shoes have fallen apart. We have only had to replace Lottie’s school shoes once, and that was because they got too small. We passed them on to a friend and her daughter got a terms wear out of them as well so they lasted just over one school year.

There are ways to help reduce the cost of school shoes though. We’re lucky enough to live within walking distance of an outlet shopping centre. Even luckier for us is the fact that there is a Clarks outlet in there. We now buy all our school shoes from there. They are usually half the price of the main Clarks in the city centre. It does mean that Lottie is wearing last seasons style, but thankfully she isn’t bothered by this at all. It might be a different story in a few years time but for now it doesn’t matter.

It’s also worth getting their feet measured and then looking online as well. eBay often has cheap Clarks shoes on it, that are still brand new. And there is always the sales as well. If you can wait until after the main back to school rush in the summer then a lot of the stock does get put into the sale. It isn’t a huge reduction usually but it helps.

School Accessories

Lunchboxes, stationary, school bags etc all add up and most people will buy new when for their children to go back to school with each year. There are quite a few ways to reduce the costs with this. Bargain shops such as Poundland and The Works are probably good for stationary. If your child is anything like I was (and I know Lottie will be!) then they will probably lose the contents of it over the course of the first few weeks and need restocking. It’s probably wiser to go cheap for this reason.

Lunchboxes and school bags are fairly cheap online. We got a lovely unicorn one for Lottie last year from Amazon in one of their flash deals. It cost us £4.99 that day but is now over £12 so we got a bargain. I wash her lunch box every week and it’s survived that. She’s going to be using it again this year as well, so it was money well spent. I quite often see them cheap in the supermarkets too because the water bottle they come with is missing. I only buy cheap water bottles anyway because Lottie loses at least one every few weeks!

Spreading the cost

Another way to minimise the impact is to spread the cost of the uniform over a few months, maybe buy something every time you go into a shop, or put a little money aside each week / month towards the uniform. I did this before Lottie started in reception. I knew that wherever she went she would need a white polo shirt and grey skirts so I brought them and other things like socks ready. Then when we knew where she was going I got one logo cardigan for her and then red ones as extras.  I know that in March 2020 when we find out what secondary school we’ve been allocated for Lottie I’ll start buying the uniform straightaway to reduce the impact. The only 4 schools we’re even willing to consider for her will cost us £300 or more to kit her out.

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