PERSONAL FINANCE: Smart ways to save money on everyday back-to-school costs

Back-to-school shopping can create a hole in parents' budgets
Back-to-school shopping can create a hole in parents' budgets Back-to-school shopping can create a hole in parents' budgets

BACK-to-school shopping can create a hole in parents' budgets at the best of times, but with a cost-of-living squeeze in full swing, money is particularly tight this year.

At a time when every cutback counts, here are some ways to save some money on the costs that will earn you top marks for effort...

1. Check what you have

This can be particularly useful if you have more than one child and need to pass items down.

When sorting clothing, create piles of those that are in good condition, those that need repairs, and items that are beyond salvaging.

Alice Haine, a personal finance analyst at investment platform Bestinvest, says: "Carry out a full audit to see what uniform, stationery items, lunchboxes and water bottles you already have.

"You may find unused items still in pristine condition at the back of a cupboard, or used items that are good to go for a second or third academic year - after all, you only want to buy new if you have to."

2. Create a 'sell' pile

Haine suggests: "If your child has outgrown some of their uniform, sell them on Facebook Marketplace or WhatsApp groups, and use the cash to buy new items." Vinted is worth a try, too.

3. List everything you need

Once you've sorted through everything, make a list of the items you need to acquire.

If you have a clear idea, you're less likely to waste money doubling up, plus, you can buy what's needed as and when you spot special offers.

Depending on your circumstances, it may also be worth checking your government website for grants which could help with school uniform costs.

4. Be clear on school rules

You could end up wasting your money if you buy items which don't match school policies.

Haine says: "If you are heading to a new school, check the uniform policy before you buy. Some schools may demand a certain style or colour."

5. Team up with parents for 'bulk buys'

"Some multipack prices may seem like great deals, but you might not need four items, so team up with a fellow parent to share the cost," says Haine.

6. Remember that the cheapest price isn't always the best value

"When it comes to shoes, it can pay to go for a slightly better brand," suggests Haine.

"Cheap shoes can have a short shelf-life when you consider how much they get battered at school. Keep the receipt, because if shoes do fall apart over a short period of time, some stores may replace them with a new pair."

7. Make sure there's 'growing room'

"Always go a size up if your child is still growing, especially on the pricier items, such as blazers, to ensure you get the most out of the investment," says Haine.

"Some brands even sell trousers with a grow-proof hem that can be let down and pressed with an iron, to ensure clothes last longer."

8. Go refurbished

Abigail Yearley, a spokesperson for website, says: "There are plenty of trustworthy and reliable sites that sell second-hand or refurbished tech, which works as good as new. Just make sure it comes with good warranty before buying."

You may also be able to buy refurbished devices directly from the manufacturer, she says.

9. Look out for second-hand items

Check the school's website for information on buying second-hand uniforms.

"Many schools offer a pre-loved uniform service, so checking if that's available to you should be the first point of action," suggests Yearley.

"If that's not an option, check on the parents' group chat if anyone is looking to give away or swap items they no longer need. It's also worth scouting out Facebook Marketplace and popping into your local charity shops."

10. Compare prices online

Browsing online is a fast way to research and compare prices.

Websites such as TopCashback can also help people to get some cashback on purchases from brands such as Clarks, Wilko and Dell, for example.

11. Look out for supermarket staples

Tesco, for example, is running a discount deal on selected stationery and lunchtime essentials for its Clubcard members, until September 7, subject to availability.

Yearley says: "All the big supermarkets tend to run back-to-school events during the summer months, so make sure you keep an eye out for them.

"It's especially worth checking out discount supermarkets like Aldi, as their back-to-school events are known for bargain prices.

"Even if you've missed the special event, it's worth checking their middle aisle, as often you'll find things like stationery and lunchboxes, which are still cheaper than buying elsewhere."

12. Get something back for donating

M&S has expanded its 'shwopping' scheme, with dedicated school uniform shwopping boxes in over 200 stores, to encourage families to donate pre-loved school uniform, to be resold in Oxfam and through a pilot shop with eBay.

As a thank you for shwopping school uniform, M&S Sparks customers can receive 20 per cent off selected kids clothing from the retailer.

Similarly, if last year's school shoes are now a battered pair of Kickers, you can recycle them through their Reskinned initiative, which will also get you £15 towards a pair for the new school year. And Schuh offer a £5 voucher for every pair of unwanted shoes you donate, as part of their Sell Your Soles scheme.

All these savings really do add up.