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.
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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.