Get an A* in back to school finances

Monday 22 August 2016, 01:30 PM

Sam Barratt
Financial Journalist , Freelance

  • School-Finances-Large

Figures from Santander show that parents spent an average of £236 getting a child ready to go back to school last year.

Whether they're five or 15, it's amazing how much kids can grow over the summer holidays. And with all the new kit they'll need for school potentially costing hundreds of pounds, it pays to do your homework before you hit the shops.

With uniform (£40), shoes (£31) and jackets and coats (£24) the biggest expenses.
These tips can help you trim these figures right back. 

Make a list

It's easy to get suckered into the three for two deals or end up buying little extras that catch your eye while you're shopping, so write a list and stick to it. As well as curbing your spending, this also guarantees you don't forget any of the essentials. 

Avoid the uniform shop

Unless your children's school has a strict uniform policy, you can shop for much less in the supermarkets, discount stores and online. As an example, this year's price wars kicked off in the discount supermarkets Aldi and Lidl, with both offering a set of four pieces of primary school uniform for under £4.   


Remember the growth spurts

Kids can grow a good six centimeters a year, and even more once they hit puberty. To avoid them outgrowing all their uniform before it's shown any signs of wear and tear, only buy enough to last between washes. It makes much more sense - and will save you money - if you restock the wardrobe throughout the year.    

Leave the kids at home 

Pester power can reduce even the firmest of parents to tears in the confectionery aisle and, especially for older kids, it's no different when it comes to buying their back to school kit. Although it's sensible to take them along to make sure shoes fit, go solo for their uniform and school stationery. It'll save you cash and a fair few arguments.   

Try before you buy

Sports kit can be a major investment and, if they go off it after a few weeks, a significant waste of money. Resist splashing out until they've shown a real commitment and, if in any doubt, ask their teacher what they need. They may be able to lend you kit or point you to a good source of second-hand items.   

Make do and mend

Although low prices mean that clothes have become much more disposable these days, you can make them last a bit longer by having a needle and thread to hand. Sewing buttons back on, patching up a rip or altering hem lengths will get extra wear out of uniform. Even having some good washing powder and stain removers will help to keep clothes fresh and bright, whatever they're put through. 

Put a name on it

It's also sensible to put your child's name in the more expensive bits of clothing. This could be with name labels or even a permanent marker but it will help you get them back if they do end up in lost property. 

Ask for help

If finances are really tight you might be able to get some help. Many schools have hardship funds to help in these circumstances so speak to a teacher or the school secretary. Charity Family Action may also be worth approaching. It offers grants to families struggling financially. More information can be found on its website (

And, while your immediate priorities may be on getting them back to school looking smart, it's also sensible to think about life insurance. This is a low cost way to ensure that they'd have some financial support if you weren't around. 

Speak to one of LifeSearch's experts on 0800 316 3166 to find out more about this form of insurance.  

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