Back to School Shopping on a Budget: Best Tips, Tricks, and Deals


  1. The increased cost of living in the UK
  2. What is the average back-to-school budget?
  3. How to get help with school uniform costs
  4. Three tips to help you prepare a budget
  5. List of back-to-school essentials
  6. Best school uniform deals
  7. Five extra ways to save
  8. Tricks to make your child’s school uniform last longer

Preparing for the back-to-school rush has always meant spending money on school uniforms and stationery, but parents in the UK are feeling the pinch this year. With the rising cost of living and inflation, getting your hands on affordable school supplies is more important than ever. 🖍️

As well as school-run, government-backed and local authority support schemes, there are plenty of back-to-school deals available across the UK to help your money to go further – you just need to know where to find them! 

We’ve compiled a list of the top deals and some handy tips and tricks to help you prepare a budget, cover the essentials, and make your purchases last longer. Read on for the best advice on back-to-school shopping on a budget and more. 👇

Back to School Shopping on a Budget:


The increased cost of living in the UK


While the country continues to deal with the effects of COVID-19, inflation is rising, and petrol prices are soaring. This month, 91 percent of households in Great Britain reported that their cost of living had increased, with the inflation rate expected to reach 7.4 percent throughout the course of 2022.

The RAC says the average petrol price is now 191.43p per litre, with diesel at 199.05p – that means it costs over £100 to fill a family car. Meanwhile, all major supermarkets have increased the price of their basic food supplies. So, many parents are facing increased costs when it comes to the school run and making packed lunches. 🥪

If you feel short on money this year, you are not alone. On average, almost 70 percent of parents worry about paying for back-to-school costs. It’s not always easy, but there are ways to reduce your costs while still covering the back-to-school essentials. Read on for our best tips, tricks, and deals. 👛


What is the average back-to-school budget?


The amount that parents allocate for their back-to-school budget varies considerably from household to household. Factors like combined household income, number of siblings, age of children, school requirements, and location can impact outgoings from year to year. 

A 2020 study by NimbleFins revealed how much British households spend on back-to-school clothes and other supplies. UK parents spend around £191 on back-to-school shopping per child. Items like blazers, school bags, coats, and shoes cost the most, with parents regularly paying more than £20 for these items. 


How to get help with school uniform costs


In April 2021, a new law was passed to make back-to-school shopping on a budget easier for all across England. The Act requires schools to follow statutory guidance on uniform costs, instructing them to keep prices down. 👍

In recognition of parents' costs for school uniforms, particularly for branded items, the statutory guidance specifically tells schools to consider high street alternatives.

It is also possible to apply for extra support to cover the cost of school uniforms, no matter where you live in the UK. 🏘️

Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales

You may be able to get help with the cost of school uniforms if you are on a low income. Use this benefit calculator to find out if you’re eligible.


You might be able to get financial help from your local council, depending on where you are. There’s a postcode checker tool on the government’s website.

Three tips to help you prepare a budget


Getting your kids ready to return to school in the Autumn term can feel overwhelming, especially if you are doing your back-to-school shopping on a budget. The best way to ease anxiety is to get ahead – leave yourself plenty of time, make a firm plan in advance and beware of shopping scams. Here are our top tips to help you prepare a budget before you start shopping. 🛍️

#Plan and prioritise

The first thing to do is map out the total amount you have to spend for all back-to-school purchases. Then, you can split that total by category this varies but think stationery, tech, uniform, etc. Make a clear list of items required; the more exact your list, the less money you’ll spend. 

👉Top tip: Speak to your child’s school and request resource lists of the utmost essentials that your child will need to return in September. That way, you can be sure you are taking care of them without spending on unnecessary items. ​​🚸

#Do your research

Taking some time to research and compare prices and deals will save you money. Look into which shops are offering which deals (more on that below 👇), find out when your preferred shops will have their sales, and investigate alternatives like second-hand options via your child’s school, for example. 

👉Top tip: Remember to check comparison and dupe websites for cheaper alternatives to popular products for those more expensive branded items like school bags and backpacks. 🎒

#Plan when to involve your child

Letting your child have a say in their uniform and stationery will help them to feel confident and positive about returning to school. Still, you must make the final decisions. Some parents find it best to create a list and browse online with their children before heading to the shops on their own to make the final purchases. 

👉Top tip: You might already have some of what you need at home. Involve your child early on by asking them to search around the house and tick items off the inventory as they find them. This teaches them the basics of finance and helps them to start being disciplined about money and budgeting. ✅


List of back-to-school essentials


As mentioned above, it’s always worth checking in with your child’s school to see if they can guide you on the essential items your child will need. In the meantime, here are the most common requirements you may like to talk to your child about and add to your inventory. 👪

#School uniforms

Your child’s uniform requirements will be specific to them and their school, but this list covers the basics. 

  • School uniform: several shirts, trousers, and skirts 
  • Socks and underwear
  • Black shoes
  • School tie (if required)
  • School blazer (if required)
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Gym clothes (sneakers, sportswear, and socks)

#Stationary and accessories

With a bit of care, the items on this list like school pencil cases and stationery

will not need replacing every year. 📚

  • Backpack
  • Gym bag
  • Water bottle
  • Pencil case with pens and pencils
  • Pencil sharpener, ruler, and rubber
  • Highlighters
  • Notebooks and folders
  • Lunch box


Tech can be an expensive category, so make sure you know exactly what your child needs. Certain items may be particularly beneficial for neurodivergent students. 🎧

  • Calculator
  • Laptop or tablet
  • Headphones or noise-cancelling headphones

Best school uniform deals


Here's our list of the best school uniform deals in the UK. Whether you're looking to buy a whole new set or just need a few spares, the supermarkets and large chains are easily accessible and often offer the best prices for parents doing their back-to-school shopping on a budget. 👕


Buy a full school uniform set for £5 at ALDI. From jumpers, trousers, skirts, polo shirts, and shoes to school pencil cases and stationery, notepads, and backpacks ALDI has everything you need for a back-to-school haul. Their non branded school uniforms also come with a 150-day guarantee. Find your nearest store.


Get school uniform items from £1.25 at ASDA. The ASDA range includes gingham dresses, school skirts, and school shorts for warm weather, as well as cosy boys’ jumpers and girls’ cardigans for extra insulation. They have also just launched their 100% sustainable school uniform range – all featuring ‘stay white’ technology to reduce your laundry load. Find your nearest store.


Kit out the kids all in one place with MATALAN. From trousers, skirts, and ties to shoes, sports kits, and stationery as well as school bags and lunchboxes – MATALAN is a one-stop shop boasting a full range of easy-care schoolwear at low prices. Polo shirts start at just £1.50 each. Find your nearest store.


Get school uniform items from £4 at TESCO. With many essentials sold in 2-packs for even better value, TESCO school uniforms boast adjustable waists on trousers and stain-repel finishes. Their 100-day guarantee means they'll exchange it if it wears out quicker than you expected. Find your nearest store.


Save up to 20% at M&S. From skirts to shorts, shirts to sportswear, shoes, socks, and accessories too – M&S boasts clever technology, weather resistant, durable school uniforms. They are currently offering up to 20% off selected school uniforms. Find your nearest store.


Five extra ways to save


Researching your best shopping options and making savvy purchases is a great way to look after the pennies. Here are another five ways to keep your spending down when it comes to back-to-school shopping on a budget. 👌

#Plan for growth spurts

Buy clothing a few sizes larger than your child needs and future proof their clothing a little. Many parents buy school uniforms with growth spurts in mind, so they don't have to replace expensive items as often. 

#Shop second-hand

Parents often replace items because their children have grown out of them, not because the clothes are ready for the bin. Shopping second-hand allows you to get hold of school uniforms at a fraction of the cost of buying them brand new. It’s a sustainable option too! We recommend eBay, charity shops, and Facebook Marketplace. 🤝

#Aim for the sales

Knowing when your favourite retailers go into sale can be a big money saver. Many retailers run regular promotions at the same time every year, so if you know a deal is around the corner, it can pay to plan your shopping around the sales. 🛒

#Make a trip to outlet stores

Outlet stores are dotted all around the country. Sometimes it is worth making the train or car trip to reach them to benefit from the discounts – sometimes 50 percent off. Check out Clarks Outlet stores for shoes or M&S Outlet stores for uniforms and more. 🏬

#Talk to your child’s school

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 school has one. Schools are there to help when finances get difficult. There might also be support options available for families who are struggling. 🧑‍🏫


Tricks to make your child’s school uniform last longer


One way to keep costs down is to minimise the number of replacements you need to make along the way. Encourage your child to take good care of their belongings and follow these simple steps to extend the lifespan of their clothing.

Insert name tags

Inserting name tags will prevent items from getting lost. Sewn-in name tags last the longest, and iron-on name tags are also fairly reliable, but some parents find writing their child's name in biro on the care tags is quick, easy, and just as good. 👚

Mend and make do

Although times aren’t quite as tough as the days of WWII rationing, this war-time motto still stands. Knowing how to sew is handy, so you can take up or let down hems and make minor repairs to clothing as needed. Try your hand with a simple stitch. There are plenty of tutorials on YouTube to follow. 🧵

Reduce wear and tear

This last one is easy, and it makes such a difference. Make sure your children change out of their school uniforms as soon as they get home from school – the less time spent wearing them, the longer they are likely to survive! 🚿

Let us support your children in preparing to return to school and compensate for any lost learning in a tutoring session. Book a free trial lesson with GoStudent today!  Our tutors are experts at bringing subjects to life, boosting academic success, and having fun along the way! Get in touch and see how it can work for you today. 🚀