Tips on preparing for the Back-to-School

Tuesday 25th Jul, 2023


The Summer Holidays are here again!  The six week break from the routines of school life is an exciting time for many youngsters, as they look forward to trips to the seaside or perhaps a family holiday. For others the joy will be mixed with anxious feelings, as they face moving up to a new school with new teachers and classmates. 


But, for parents, already grappling with cost of living pressures, the need to fork out for more school uniform and kit often brings great stress.  The Money Saving Expert reckons the cost of school uniforms and PE kit averages £337 a year for each secondary school child and £315 a year for each primary school child.

Here at HEY Credit Union we want to help to ease the burden as much as possible and so here are a few tips to help you prepare for this year’s Back-to-School: 


Start by making a list of the things you are likely to need:

On most families’ lists there’ll be uniform, school shoes, stationery and possibly text books.  But before you go shopping for uniform, take a look through the children’s drawers and wardrobes to see what you already have, and what condition it’s in.  You don’t need to buy a full set in one go.  Some items may still have a few months’ wear left in them, so you could spread the cost and buy some later on when you find a good deal.

If your child is starting at a new school, ask for a uniform list to make sure you’re not missing anything.

One idea is to divide your shopping list into two parts – essential items that you’ll need to shop for straight away and desirable items that can wait until later.

Why not involve your little one in helping with your list?  It can be a fun task as they think what is needed and remind you of anything you may have forgotten.   Your shopping list should then cover exactly what you need, and you won’t be tempted to buy too much.


Create a budget plan for the school year:

When it comes to money, it’s always good to get ahead of your spending and saving by drawing up a budget.  It’s not hard to do, especially if you use an online Budget Planner such as Money Helper or download the HEY Credit Union one here.

By entering your income and outgoings, your Budget Planner shows where your money is going each month and how much you have left at the end.  It will help to identify any non-essential spending that you could cut down on, and what you can afford to spend when shopping for back-to-school.   It can also help you work out how much money you could put aside in a savings account each month, perhaps as a ‘rainy day’ fund for any unexpected bills.

Try to estimate the cost of your shopping list.  When budgeting for school uniform, remember many schools require you to buy branded items such as blazers, school shirts and ties from an ‘official supplier’.  Their price list is therefore your guide for those items, unless the school has a second-hand store, which could help you keep costs down while doing your bit for the environment.

School shoes are perhaps the biggest one-off yearly cost.  Given how quickly children’s feet grow, a fresh pair may be needed every academic year, which really adds up.  Putting a small amount into regular savings could be a good way to manage this burden. 

When planning for the whole school year, don’t forget spending on food/lunches.  Sending lunch money to school is very tempting, as many schools have a cafeteria/canteen.  However, it can be an expensive option, especially when children start secondary school.  You could save a huge amount in the long run by making packed lunches for your children, while also ensuring they get a nutritious meal every day.


Shop around to get the best value:

When shopping for uniform, if your school doesn’t insist on official suppliers, then the supermarkets are usually the cheapest option.  Many run special offers, promotions and sales during the peak-buying season, July to September.  Uniform sets (polo shirts, sweatshirt and skirt or trousers) may be bought from £5 (Aldi and Lidl) or £10 (Asda, Tesco, Sainsburys).   Check out the MSE website, which lists the prices of individual items and uniform sets at major supermarkets and high street stores.

If you are on a tight budget, consider ‘preloved’ school uniform.  As children grow so fast, there are always second-hand school uniform bargains to be had.  Why not search sites such as Facebook Marketplace or eBay?   Your school may even have a dedicated Facebook group or page of its own.   If there are any charity shops near school, they’re likely to have stocks of the local uniform much cheaper than buying all new.  Some schools also hold pre-used uniform sales which can be a godsend for expensive items like blazers with logos or uniforms in unusual colours.

In a big family, hand-me-downs are easy.  But if that’s not possible, any friends, neighbours or family members with older children who have outgrown the first sizes will probably be glad for someone to take it off their hands. 

An often quoted money-saving tip, with growth spurts in mind, is to buy clothing a size or two larger than your child currently needs. That way, you don't have to buy uniform as often.  And remember, you don't need huge amounts of each item.  Buy the smallest amount that you need.

When buying shoes, always get their feet measured and make sure they try them on first.  Buy them in plenty of time for your child to wear them in before school starts.  For reception, buy shoes with Velcro straps so they don’t have to worry about fiddly buckles or laces.


Make things last as long as you can!

Having bought the uniform, aim to keep it in the best possible condition so that you don’t have to replace it too soon.  Add name tags (sewn-in ones last longer than iron-ons) to minimise the chances of jumpers, coats, blazers and PE kit being lost, or them coming home with someone else’s more worn jumper.  If you can sew, you’ll be able to take up or let down hems and make small running repairs (If not, it could be a cost-saving skill worth learning). And save on wear and tear by getting your child to always change out of their school clothes when they get home. 


Try to start a regular savings habit:

Whether your young ones are big or small, it is never too late to start saving for their future. Even a small amount put aside regularly soon grows into a useful sum.  It’s also a good habit to get into, as a parent, to make sure funds are readily available for those costly or unexpected items such as shoes, winter coats, school trips or dentist fees.

At HEY Credit Union we offer a range of savings solutions for the whole family, to help you meet your financial goals and build resilience for whatever comes your way.  Find out more here


See what else we can help with:

Back-to-school is one of those ‘lumpy expenses’ that it could make sense to spread evenly over the full school year.   As your not-for-profit Credit Union, we offer low-cost options to help you do this affordably.  Our interest rates are many times cheaper than doorstep lenders and similar.


Family Benefit Plan

With this popular Plan, you arrange for your Child Benefit to be paid into your Credit Union account, which takes care of the repayments.  Any funds left over can either be left in the account to build up some savings or withdrawn at your convenience.

Find out more

Personal Loan 

If the Family Benefit Plan is not for you, consider taking a look at our Personal Loans (interest rates are the same).  Choose the amount to borrow and pay back by bank standing order or (if you work for one of our payroll partners) direct from your wages.

Find out more



This article is for general information only and does not constitute financial, legal, or any other form of advice.


23 July 2023

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