The insider’s guide to going back to school

Find out what you need with this useful checklist

Long back-to-school queues, out-of-stock items and last-minute panics are no parent’s idea of fun. However, by following some top tips on how to be prepared and save on the cost of going back to school you could be feeling top of the class.

Read on to find out more about what you need and how you could save on the cost of buying it.

How to save on the cost of school

Buy second-hand

Uniform items that need to be branded with the school’s logo (such as blazers, jumpers and cardigans) can usually only be bought new from the school’s preferred supplier. However, check if your school, like many, offers second-hand items at a discounted rate from its office – or if there is a designated Facebook group where you may find other parents selling (often little-worn) outgrown items.

Go to supermarkets and department stores

Generic items that don’t need to be branded with the school’s logo – polo shirts, trousers/shorts, pinafores etc. – are usually available more cheaply from department stores and even supermarkets. 

Avoid multiple delivery charges

If you’re ordering online for goods to be delivered, try to group together your purchases from as few different stores as possible (say, your school’s preferred supplier and a single supermarket or department store rather than two or more different ones) in order to avoid multiple delivery charges. You could even order the next sizes up at the same time in order to get maximum value for money on your deliveries – and delay having to do it all again!

Know when to invest in quality

Sometimes it’s safest not to go for the cheapest – if your child’s feet aren’t growing at a fast pace, for example, you could invest in a quality pair of shoes that should last a long time and save you the expense and hassle of replacing them more often.

Buy as early as you can

Being organised and buying everything comfortably in advance of the start of term not only increases the likelihood of your preferred sizes being in stock, it also helps you avoid the notorious ‘back to school’ crowds. And retailers sometimes also offer special promotions for buying uniform early, which means your pocket can benefit from your organisation too.

Name everything

There’s nothing more frustrating to a parent than new(-ish) belongings going missing, never to resurface in lost property. Invest time upfront and ensure your child’s name is on everything, including their uniform, PE kit, stationery and water bottle etc., to minimise the risk of incurring expense and hassle buying replacements. 

Laundry markers, which permanently mark clothing, are a cheap solution, while some parents opt to use personalised labels – some can be stitched onto clothing, while others can even be stuck on for ultimate convenience.

Check with current parents what’s actually needed

Some schools provide new parents with an intimidatingly long list of ‘necessary’ items, but in practice they may not all be needed. For example, rather than buying a regulation science overall, many pupils may simply wear an old shirt; a school may say it prefers ‘proper’ school shoes rather than trainer-style ones, but in practice a trainer-style (in discreet black, obviously) may be commonly worn.

Back to school checklist

Now you know some great ways to save money on the cost of going to school, here’s a useful back to school checklist to help you think about what you may need for your child. Simply tick off the items you’ve sorted, so you can see what’s left to buy.

And, if your child is starting school for the first time in Reception class then you may only need a handful of these items; however, if your child is at secondary school, then you may need everything listed!



PE kit


Swimming kit


After school kit




Other essentials


Items for the warmer months


Items for the colder months


Items for parents


We hope this article has helped you to think about all the things your child (and you!) may need for the new school year. As the saying goes, ‘the early bird catches the worm’, so the sooner you get organised and buy what you need, the more money (and sanity) you could potentially save!

Before making financial decisions always do research, or talk to a financial adviser. Views are those of our mentors and customers and do not constitute financial advice.