School uniform MoneySaving tips
With the summer holidays fast approaching (or already on for those in Scotland), now's the time you may be starting to think about your child's school uniform needs.
Kids grow at a rapid rate, so they’re going to need a number of different uniforms during their years at school. Factor in PE kits as well, and costs can seriously add up – with parents forking out an average of £337 a year on school uniform for each secondary school child and £315 a year for each primary school child. In this guide, we've got handy tips for how you can kit out the kids with uniform on the cheap.
Short-lived offers and promotions
Every now and then we see offers on school uniform items, often during school holiday times. In the past we've seen discounts at supermarkets such as Asda and Sainsbury's, cashback offers for a 'free' uniform at Matalan, and a 20% off promotion on M&S uniform.
Ongoing MoneySaving tips and tricks
Here are our ongoing tips and tricks for saving money on school uniform.
Pick up uniform sets from £5 at supermarkets
If your school isn't too strict on buying official uniform from specialist suppliers, then supermarkets are nearly always the cheapest place to buy new school uniform.
Prices for a full set (polo shirts, sweatshirt, and skirt or trousers) cost from as little as £5 at certain times of year at Aldi and Lidl – July until September is one of the cheapest times to buy uniform.
Other major supermarkets such as Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury's offer sets year-round from under £10, and some high street retailers such as M&S and John Lewis offer uniform sets for under £22.
Prices vary depending on size, except at Aldi and Lidl where the price is the same for all sizes. It's worth noting how many items you get in a pack (we've included this in the table).
If you go online to Aldi*, you can get a full school uniform for £5. Standard delivery's £2.95, or free if you're spending over £30. The school uniforms will also be available to buy in-store (find your nearest*).
- Sweatshirt – £1.50
- 2x polo shirts – £1.75
- Girl's pleated skirt – £1.75
- Boy's trousers – £1.75
Regardless of size, the prices stay the same, so it's no more expensive to kit out the bigger kids than the littl'uns.
Aldi told us that stock may not be replenished, so go quick if this is something you're after.
See our latest Aldi deals for more ways to save.See all deals: Aldi (3 deals)
You can get school uniform items (ages 3-16) from £2.50 at Tesco, in store only (find your nearest*). As the uniform is only sold in stores, it's not possible to check stock levels online. Some items may be running low in stock, so there's no guarantee you'll be able to get what you're after.
What can you get?
- 2x polo shirts - from £2.50
- 2x sweatshirts - from £4
- 2x skirts - from £6
- 2x trousers - from £7
Prices change depending on size.See all deals: Tesco (16 deals)
You can get school uniform items (ages 2-16) from £3 at Asda*, both online and in stores. If you're buying online, standard delivery's £2.95. Click and collect from a store (find your nearest*) is free. Stock for the cheapest items is starting to run very low, so there's no guarantee you'll be able to get what you're after.
What can you get?
Prices change depending on size. We noticed that a lot of sizes are sold out online. If George at Asda doesn't have the size you need available to order, try visiting a store instead. Alternatively, there are other similar items available online, but you may pay more for them.
See all deals: Asda (6 deals)
Delivery not available for the Channel Islands and Isle of Man.
You can get school uniform items (ages 3-13) from £2.50 at Morrisons*, both in stores and online. If you're buying online, standard delivery's £2.97. Stock is beginning to run low in some of the cheapest items, so there's no guarantee you'll be able to get what you're after.
What can you get?See all deals: Morrisons (5 deals)
You can get school uniform items (ages 3-16) from £4 online at Matalan* and in stores (find your nearest*). Standard delivery's £3.95 or you can click and collect from a store for free. Stock of the cheapest items is now running very low and there's no guarantee that you'll be able to get the items or sizes that you need.
What can you get?
- 2x Sweatshirt* - £6-£10 (very limited stock)
- Skirt* - £4-£7
- 2x Trousers* - £10-£14
- 2x polo shirts* - £3-6 (limited stock)
Prices change depending on size.See all deals: Matalan (2 deals)
You can get school uniform items (ages 3-16) online or in store (find your nearest*) from £7 at John Lewis*. Standard delivery's £3.50, or you can click and collect from £2. Many of the cheapest items are now running low in stock, so there's no guarantee that you'll be able to find the sizes or items you're after.
What can you get?
Prices vary depending on size.See all deals: John Lewis (2 deals)
Look out for 20%-25% off in sales
Some retailers run regular promotions, which include discounts on school uniform. More often than not, a retailer runs its offers at the same time every year, so if you know when a deal is likely coming, it can pay to wait. Big sales include:
Several times a year, you can get 25% off Sainsbury’s Tu clothing in larger stores and online, which includes school uniform. In the past, we've seen the offer in February, April, May, August, September and October, and it usually lasts about a week.
For the past nine years, M&S* has offered 20% off school uniform online and in stores at the end of June/beginning of July. It applies to the majority of schoolwear but excludes shoes, accessories and coats.
Ask yourself whether you need to buy everything at once? Create an inventory and pick up each item as and when you find a good deal – it will also help spread the cost.
Get a government grant of up to £200 government if you need it
Parents in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are eligible for a grant to help with uniform costs (and some in England, but it's a postcode lottery). You can find out if this applies to you by entering your postcode at Gov.uk, which will direct you to your local borough. As well as school uniform, you may be able to get help with sports kit, childcare, travel and course materials. See our Check if you can get a grant of up to £200 MSE news story for full details.
Bag second-hand uniform for free or under £5
Another way to save on school uniform is to get it second-hand. After all, a few sloppily eaten lunches and overzealous art sessions, and that brand new school uniform isn't going to look immaculate for long.
eBay and charity shops
If you have older children, then hand-me-downs are easy, but if not, you can check out eBay or visit local charity shops (find your nearest) close to your child’s school. We heard that one primary school in South London donates all unclaimed lost property to local charity shops at the end of each term – we’re not sure how common a tactic this is, but we like it.
The online social platform is buzzing with offers of used school items, both in individual groups such as Second Hand, Nearly New School Uniform For Sale or Free, and in its Marketplace. It could be worth checking Facebook to see if your school has a dedicated group or page of its own.
Facebook Marketplace allows you to filter by distance, price and latest posting. Previously we found some logo sweatshirts, an official tie, generic trousers and more for free, as well as hundreds of other items for about £2-£5. Beware though, many posts are listed as 'free' but turn out to be a job lot of different items, all with a price attached.
Sign up for a free Freecycle account and you can search for uniform being given away for free, or you can add a ‘wanted’ post. In the past we've seen a school-specific blazer, skirt and shirts offered in Bolton, a boy’s uniform bundle in Hackney and a college-specific bundle in Cardiff.
Parent Teacher Association
It's common for a school’s Parent Teacher Association to hold second-hand clothing sales, so get in touch to find out if your child’s has one. If it doesn’t, suggest it to the PTA and, if you can, volunteer to help set one up. You could also organise a ‘swap shop’ event with other parents. These methods are particularly useful if your school has an official uniform with a logo, which is difficult to find affordably when bought new.
Check outlet stores for up to 50% off
Outlet store prices tend to be more appealing than their high street counterparts, including:
Clarks Outlet* – often has lots of shoes at 50% off online and in store (find your nearest). Delivery’s £3.95 if shopping online.
M&S Outlet - it has hundreds of outlets stores which have 30% or more off the main M&S store price.
MSE Molly says...
Outlet items are often incredibly similar styles to the full-price versions, but a fraction of the cost. They’re dotted all around the country, but if you don’t live close to one, weigh up first whether it will still be MoneySaving for you once you factor in driving or train costs. Some centres also do a further discount for you if you are from outside the area – so head online first to check out if there’s a loyalty scheme or visit customer relations when you arrive.
Plan for growth spurts
Buy clothing a few sizes larger than your child currently needs. Plenty of parents buy uniform with growth spurts in mind, so that you don't end up having to buy uniform as often.
MSE Carol says...
If you are, say, buying a blazer, buy a size or two up so that it lasts a few years. At that age, they’re growing so much, they could grow out of a blazer in a term.
How to make uniforms last longer
- Once you’ve got the uniform, decrease the chances of having to replace it too soon by keeping it in good nick.
- Name tags will prevent jumpers, coats and blazers from getting lost. Sewn-in name tags last longer than iron-on ones. Some parents find writing their child's name in biro on the care tags does the trick just fine, while others suggest that if you write the surname only, it makes hand-me-downs easier (unless you've got a particularly common surname, that is).
- It's handy to be able to sew so that you can take up or let down hems and make small repairs to clothing as needed. MSE forumites have got a helpful thread for all your sewing questions.
- And finally, a simple idea – make sure your wee’uns change out of their clothes when they get home from school.
What if my child's school insists on official emblazoned clothing?
It’s common for a school to have a blazer with a badge on it and a specifically patterned tie, which would have to be bought from special shops or from the school itself. Some schools, however, require more of these bespoke clothing items than others do.
Although it's up to individual schools to decide on and enforce uniform policy, the Department of Education suggests that schools should consider cost and availability to ensure best value for money – though it will almost always work out more expensive than being able to choose where you buy.
Unfortunately, if your school is strict on having an official uniform from a specialist supplier, there is little you can do, but Gov.uk suggests speaking to the school's PTA if it makes changes to its uniform policy that requires compulsory expensive items, and to Citizens Advice if it still enforces it.
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