Tips to Save on Back to School Essentials

The list of things kids need at the start of term can be long and expensive. We have some budgeting tips that will help you make savings on essentials.

A back to school sign is surrounded by coloured pens and pencils.
(Image credit: Getty)

Getting the kids ready for a new term is an expensive time of year. In addition to school uniforms and shoes, there are all the extra bits and pieces, and that adds up! 

According to the survey site, Toluna, in 2022 over 51% of parents said they will re-use school uniforms and other school items from the previous year. 26% of parents said they will switch to lower-priced brands and 22% said they will use cheaper retailers. 

But parents are going even further to cut back on costs with 41% switching kids to packed lunches to save money. So if you are feeling the pinch, you aren’t alone. 

Read on for our helpful tips on how you can save money no matter if your kids are starting their first day at primary school or preparing for their GCSEs. 

Get organised!

A blue notebook is open and a check list is written on the page with a blue pen.

(Image credit: Getty)

It might seem obvious but planning ahead really can save you money. Don’t leave school shopping til the last week of the school holidays! Last-minute shopping leaves you with fewer choices and the most expensive items. 

Take an inventory of the previous year's school uniform and supplies. If there are a few months of wear left in school trousers, skirts or shirts delay buying new ones until later in the year. It’s a great way to spread the cost and items might be cheaper at a later date. 

Write a checklist and remember to have the list with you, whether next to you while browsing online or on a shopping trip. It might be worth prioritising the list but creating 3 columns:

  1. Essentials - things that kids must have.
  2. Would like - something the kids would benefit from but aren’t essential.
  3. Treat/waitlist - things that the kids would love if the budget allows or that can be purchased at a later date. 

Set a budget

A calculator has the word 'Budget' written on the screen.

(Image credit: Getty)

Be realistic when deciding on a budget and don’t be influenced by what other parents spend. Even if you are about to set the smallest budget to date, knowing how much you have and planning ahead is a great start. In 2022 UK parents spend an average of £143.39 per child on school uniforms and essentials according to Trumpet Media Group. But you can spend less if you follow some of the tips in this guide. 

Second-hand savings

White and blue shirts hang alongside grey school trousers in a wardrobe.

(Image credit: Getty)

From school uniforms to school bags, there are huge savings to be made when buying preloved items. From Facebook marketplace to preloved apps like Vinted there are plenty of ways to save on school uniforms and school shoes. 

Buy stationery in bulk

Several coloured pens and pencils are lay on a wooden table.

(Image credit: Getty)

Buying stationery in bulk provides great savings. From pencils and felt tips to a pack of notepaper. When you buy individual stationery packs from high street stationers it can become rather pricey. 

Head to eBay or Amazon and buy in bulk. Either divide up items between siblings or friends, or you can just put additional items away for next term or even next year! 

Get creative

A girl is using stickers to decorate stationery.

(Image credit: Getty)

Younger children love character pencil cases, lunch boxes and accessories, but they aren’t cheap! Consider buying basic pencil cases and pick up character stickers to add to them. It makes a fun rainy-day project for during the school holidays too.  

Make savings on lunch

A boy is sat at a school dinner table eating a sandwich.

(Image credit: Getty)

Check with your local authority to see if you are eligible for free school meals. Lots of families on low incomes can claim and it can save £14 a week per child. 

If your child is taking packed lunches, plan the week in advance and bulk buy as many ingredients as you can, this will save money in the long run. Save leftovers too, pasta and chilli-based meals make tasty lunches for the next day. There are some great budget-friendly options available to inspire you online.  

Use loyalty card perks

A mother with a young child are paying at a supermarket checkout using a loyalty card.

(Image credit: Getty)

Most of us have a few loyalty cards and apps at our fingertips. Don’t forget to use yours when you are buying school uniforms or packed lunch ingredients. And don’t forget that you can save up points and/or vouchers that you can spend on back-to-school essentials too.  

Use Cashback apps

A cashback sign is surrounded by gold coins.

(Image credit: Getty)

Apps like Top Cashback can be a great way of making some additional savings. Of course, they can be used all year round but make the most of them while you are spending more than usual. You can often get up to 20% back on your purchases and the sooner you start using them the sooner you will start building your cash pot to spend on the checklist.   

Budget for school trips

An open jar is filled with pound coins.

(Image credit: Getty)

Ok, so school trips aren’t necessarily something you can reduce the cost of. However, you can plan for them so you aren’t faced with unexpected expenses. Either set up a weekly or monthly standing order to a specific savings account or get the good old-fashioned jar and pop change in there on a regular basis. 

Even if the money isn’t spent on school trips, it can go towards the next batch of back-to-school essentials. The time will pass quicker than you think! 

Sarah-Jane Outten

Hi, I’m SJ. I’m an editor and content executive here at MyVoucherCodes. I started my journey here as a deals expert which gave me the skills to become a money-saving expert. You can find my tips and recommendations in various publications including The Sun, The Mirror, and The Telegraph.

I gained a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing in 2018, and I’ve put my writing skills into many projects since then. My portfolio at includes my work with Cardiff Times, Buzz Magazine and more. 

I write poetry and short stories for pleasure and enjoy getting creative with watercolours and lino printing. I hope that I can merge my love of writing and art into a children's book in the future - watch this space!