8 reasons why kids’ return to school doesn’t have to break the bank

Back to school time is always costly for parents, and this year they’ll be paying more than normal. Having to buy new shoes, school uniform, coats, books and stationery for one or more children can quickly add up.

This year, like almost everything else we buy, they cost more – up eight per cent to a total of £143, research from WorldRemit shows.

One small positive is that the figure for school gear is below the wider inflation rate of 10.1 per cent. Retailers running deals on some classroom essentials has helped keep prices down more than other goods.

Here are some other tips to make sure you don’t spend too much.

Back to school time is always costly for parents, and this year they’ll be paying more than normal

CHECK WHAT YOU ALREADY HAVE

Gone are the days of pristine pencil cases and immaculate backpacks; upcycling and reuse starts at home. Before you head for the shops, draw up a list of essentials that your child/children will need, such as uniform and shoes, sports equipment, bags, notepads, lunchboxes, laptops and calculators. Raid your cupboards and have a clear-out to identify stuff from last year which could still be used. If those items can be cleaned up and used again, do that so you have fewer brand new things to pick up for the new term.

GET COUNCIL HELP WITH UNIFORM AND OTHER COSTS

New Government guidance means that from this academic year, schools must make uniforms affordable for everyone. Parents shouldn’t have to stump up extra cash or be limited to expensive shops, while schools must remove unnecessary branded items with crests and logos. If you’re struggling on a low income, however, your local education authority (LEA) might be able to help with the cost – up to £200 as a non-repayable grant.

Before you head for the shops, draw up a list of essentials that your child/children will need, such as uniform and shoes, sports equipment, bags, notepads, lunchboxes, laptops and calculators

Similar assistance could help pay for transport, computer equipment or even learning a musical instrument. You’re on a low income if you are on means-tested benefits such as Universal Credit, Housing Benefit or JobSeeker’s Allowance. The rules and amount vary across the UK, so check with your local education authority.

Rachel Ingleby, benefits expert at Citizens Advice, said: ‘If you’ve claimed benefits for the first time or have seen your circumstances change, it’s worth checking whether you can apply for extra help with costs such as school lunches, transport or uniforms.’

SECOND-HAND, NOT SECOND-BEST

The average cost of compulsory new school uniform is now nearly £100 per (secondary school) pupil, according to the Schoolwear Association. However, there’s no longer a stigma around second-hand school clothing or good-quality ‘pre-loved’ items.

As primary-school-age children grow very quickly, there’s usually a surplus of uniform in tip-top condition from a range of sources. Check out local charity shops and remember that schools can advise on their own cheap or free second-hand uniforms, as well as organising sales.

Look at school-uniform marketplaces and apps through which parents and schools can buy, sell, give away and recycle outgrown uniforms. Uniformd and Uniformerly are two of the biggest players.

The average cost of compulsory new school uniform is now nearly £100 per (secondary school) pupil, according to the Schoolwear Association

DON’T BE FOOLED BY MULTI-PACKS

Are they too good to be true? Plain, basic items are temptingly sold in multi-packs of two, four and even five and are useful to partner with more expensive branded items. Although this could be good value for staple white polo shirts that youngsters may need to wear daily, it might not be necessary to buy duplicate sets of school trousers or skirts.

The consumer group Which? says parents should work out the price per item to see if you’ll save by buying more. Sainsbury’s Tu brand, for example, sells a multi-pack of four black woven school trousers for nine-year-olds for £16, which is £4 per pair. But you’ll pay the same price per item if you buy the two-pack, for £8.

‘BUDDY UP’ WITH FAMILIES

If you find a great value multi-pack offer but don’t need every item, consider pairing up with a fellow parent to split the costs. Linking up with families with children of different ages is also a great way to pass on clothes when they’re outgrown. You could also set up your own uniform WhatsApp group to share and exchange new items.

USE DISCOUNT CODES AND LOYALTY APPS

Shop around as retailers offer deals and discounts on uniforms at this time of year which continue into the autumn. Once the back-to-school rush is over, many continue to sell essentials at knock-down prices to make way for new stock. Also keep on top of retailer discount codes, cashback and loyalty apps offering shoppers money-off vouchers. MoneySavingExpert scans the sector to find the best up-to-date deals.

SAVE ON TECH

There are bumper savings on refurbished tech. Check out Amazon Renewed, for example, where shoppers can save as much as a third on smartphones, iPads and laptops compared with new. In addition, eBay sells refurbished laptops from well-known brands at discounts of up to 50 per cent. All come with a 12-month warranty to give parents peace of mind.

There are bumper savings on refurbished tech. Check out Amazon Renewed, for example, where shoppers can save as much as a third on smartphones, iPads and laptops compared with new

LABEL CLOTHES AND GADGETS

It’s not unusual for items of uniform, tech and gadgets to go missing – and not just the occasional sock. Research from labelling company Stamptastic found that three-quarters of primary-school children ‘lose’ up to two items every year.

Parents can reduce the risk of having to pay for new items by labelling everything with their child’s name. You can buy labels to iron or sew on to clothes for about £3.50, while you can also identify gadgets’ owners with special stickers.

M&S has once again been named the best British store for children’s school uniforms, a survey has shown.

British families have crowned the department store the best provider of school uniforms when taking into account price, quality and fit for the second year running – while the study shows uniforms have gone up in price almost everywhere.

As M&S enjoyed another year at the top, the last place remained the same with Lidl trailing behind competitors again in 2022.

Meanwhile George at Asda was voted Best Value School Uniform by testers and Tu at Sainsbury’s came out on top as the best of all supermarket offerings.

The survey, carried out by MadeForMums, asked judges and families to try out uniforms for their school-age children from various different supermarkets.

MadeForMums ranked school uniform providers in the UK by the fit, quality and price of their products with M&S emerging a clear winner

Marks & Spencer came out on top as the best high street brand for selling school uniform

Lidl’s school uniform offering was ranked worst overall for the second year running

They were asked to compare how the uniforms fit their children, how they fared after being washed and how adaptable they were for different sizes and special needs.

Researchers then asked 700 further families to comment on what they thought were the best value and quality school uniforms.

MadeForMums’ research found that almost 20% of parents spend around £100 on uniforms when their children start at a new school.

Taking this into account as well as the rising cost of living, researchers also compared prices of uniform items in each store in 2022 and 2021.

Results showed M&S was still the most favoured British store for parents shopping for school uniforms with an overall rating of 8.55/10.

Price comparisons of school uniforms from 2021 to 2022 showed almost all stores increased the cost of their items

Special mention was also given to Tu at Sainsbury’s, which won the accolade of best supermarket seller of school uniforms

The Best Value award went to George at Asda for its school uniform offerings

Coming in at a joint close second were Tu at Sainsbury’s and Next, which had an overall rating of 8.38.

While parents decided Next uniforms were a better fit, they agreed the Tu range was much better value for money.

Coming in just above Lidl was Gap – and while it didn’t come last, parents agreed overall its uniforms gave parents the least for their money.

MadeForMums also compared prices of uniforms in 2022 with the same study a year ago – with John Lewis ANYDAY and M&S being the only vendors to reduce the price of the items.

Parents shopping for their kids’ uniforms this year could make a saving of up to £4.50 in John Lewis and £3.40 in M&S compared to last year – whereas almost everywhere else has raised prices.

However the total cost of uniforms in these stores are still far above their cheaper counterparts at around £17.

Although rated lower quality overall in the parents’ survey, a school uniform from Aldi costs just £4.63 for a polo shirt, sweater, trousers and socks.

Susie Boone, editorial director of MadeForMums, said: ‘Pressures on household budgets means the challenge of where to shop for school uniform is being felt more than ever this year.’

She added: ‘Marks & Spencer was a worthy winner of Best High Street School Uniform with parents praising its “grow-proof” adjustable hems, designs for SEN and sensitivity needs, plus wash quality, fit and longevity.’

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