Budgeting for children’s school costs

4 min read


School costs can really put a strain on your finances, but there are lots of ways to cut costs and keep on budget while getting everything your child needs


Whether next term is fast approaching or you’re simply planning ahead, there are a number of ways you can stay on track with your spending throughout the school year. Read our tips to help you keep costs down.

Make a list so you don’t overbuy

Start by writing a list of everything your child needs for school. This’ll help you stay on track with getting exactly what you need, and avoid the risk of getting carried away! You can do this with a pen and paper, or online in a spreadsheet – this can be particularly useful, as you can update it if you need to, or add different categories like costs, sizes for school uniform, and dates when your kids will need different things throughout the year. It’s a good idea to do this before the start of the school year, so you can get what you need before term starts and refer back to your list if necessary.

Draw up a budget

Do some online research, look in supermarkets, school shops or stationers and check any price lists given by your child’s school to work out a ballpark cost for each item on your list. By doing this, you’ll be able to work out an overall budget and see how much money you need to allocate. Plus, as it can be very expensive to buy everything at once, having a list means you can prioritise what you need to get now and what you can put off for later in the school year, allowing you more time to save. If you do need to put more away each month to cover any costs, using a budget planner can be really helpful in planning your finances.

Shop around

You can now find lots of basic school uniform options, from socks to dresses and shirts, in supermarkets like Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s and from online retailers like Amazon. For anything non-branded or without a school logo, it’s a good idea to have a look around before purchasing anything in a school shop, as it’s likely to be more expensive. This can also be a useful tactic for sports kit, as children are often required to have different outfits for different sports, and costs can quickly mount up.

Shopping bags

Keep an eye on the sales

Where possible, don’t leave buying school uniform or supplies until just before school starts. Look for winter and summer sales – which can be great for finding cut-price shoes or sports kit – second-hand uniform events at school, and offers on things like stationary, water bottles and lunch boxes throughout the year. You can also find reduced-priced textbooks and book offers from retailers like Amazon, and second-hand books on sites like Ebay, or in charity shops. Looking around could save you quite a bit of money in the long run.

Buy a size up

Where possible, it’s worth buying any school uniform, sports kit or shoes in a larger size – especially if your child’s at an age where they’re growing very quickly. If you or someone you know is handy with a sewing machine, you can even adjust things like hems to get the most use out of the clothes.

Save and re-use

If you have younger children, or plan to in the future, it’s worth keeping hold of any used school uniform, as well as things like books, folders and sports equipment, to re-use later on. Or you could swap items with friends and family that have children. Plus, investing in things like a good quality lunch box, sports bag, rucksack or water bottle will mean they can use them again and again, and you won’t have to continually replace things.

Don’t forget about hidden costs

When talking about school costs, we often think about the obvious – school uniform, sports kit, shoes, books and stationary – but there are actually lots more things to think about. From after-school clubs and trips, technology and musical instruments to school dinners or packed lunches and transportation to and from school, it all adds up. So, if you can, it’s worth setting some extra money aside.

Back to school checklist. This image is an infographic and has alternative text available if you are using a screen reader.

Back to school checklist

Budgeting aside, there are lots of other things to think about when your child goes back to school.

  • Fill out any necessary school forms and contact information
  • Make sure your child’s vaccinations are up to date
  • Check term dates so you know when school holidays are
  • Arrange after-school care if you need it
  • See if you need to register your child for any school sports or activities
  • Look at the school dress code and list of required clothes and materials
  • Buy the necessary stationary, supplies, uniform, sports kit and sports equipment
  • Plan and shop for packed lunches, or arrange for school lunches
  • Check the school commute

Want more help with budgeting?

If you need any help or more information about saving and budgeting, check out our top tips for managing your money or visit the Money Advice Service

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