Managing school uniform costs

The summer holidays bring lots of fun family time, no school runs and time to spend with your children, but for many parents it is also a time to start buying the next round of school uniforms. With all the costs of days out, holidays and the day to day bills, budgeting for uniforms can be really stressful. Trying to figure out and plan for the costs, getting the right sizing so the uniform will last, taking the children to the shops to get measured up – and trying to encourage them to cooperate can take its toll.

On the TV there are adverts of big supermarket chains selling entire uniforms for less than a fiver but when you get there, they may not be the right colours or size, so the entire process of shopping around can start again. This is a frustrating experience for many.

Managing school uniform costs

The financial reality families face

For many families whose finances are already squeezed, it can be extremely difficult to find ‘spare’ money or save up for uniforms beforehand as quite simply there is no extra cash to use.

We often hear from parents who say that they feel they have to ‘rob Peter to pay Paul’ just to find money to spend on uniforms and therefore they get behind on other bills just to survive. Unfortunately this is the reality for many families.

Families feel very anxious and under pressure especially if the child wants a specific brand or item that is out of budget. They want to oblige but financially feel unable to do so, and this can make parents and carers feel very low and distressed. Parents often say trying to explain this to a child that they cannot have what they want can leave them feeling inadequate. All parents want their child to go back to school happy, confident and comfortable so it is important to them to get them what they need ready for when they start school.

What can help?

  • Take advantage of early offers – quite often many clothing retailers have a price war and this normally starts before the end of term. If you can, buy some bits along the way so you are not forced to go and buy all on one outing.
  • Look at online auction sites or sale websites for items like shoes, trousers, shirts, etc. or other necessities that do not have to have the school badge or emblem.
  • Recycle uniform – speak to local families to find out if there is a recycling scheme set up in your local community or via the school where you can purchase used quality uniform at a fraction of the price.
  • Shop around – as stressful as it is to shop around, it can often be cost effective. Do your research on price compare sites, retailer websites and find out if it is cheaper to buy online than via the shop.
  • Friends and family – find out if friends or family members whose children attend the same school have uniform that they have grown out of. Many friends do this and it can help to save enormously.
  • Social media groups -  You may find a social media group that is selling uniform pre owned or new and unused. Find out from friends if they know of any online groups. 

Speak to the school to find out if they have a scheme where they sell used quality school wear for a fraction of the price. Many schools do this but if your school doesn’t, perhaps you can suggest it to the PTA (Parents/Teachers Association) or to the school office directly. 

Find out if you are eligible for funding towards uniform costs. There are some schemes that can help low income families through a grant or loan available through the local authority. However, it is important to mention that not all local authorities issue grants for uniforms. Please click here to find out if your council does help. For further advice and alternative sources of help, please speak to your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

If you feel in need to talk things through, emotional support or advice on what you can do, please feel free to contact us directly and speak to one of our family support workers. You can call our helpline on 0808 800 2222.

Online resources – second hand uniform swaps

Netmums forum


comments powered by Disqus