Back to school worries, school uniforms how can we afford to buy them? 

It’s that time of year again, just over a week before the children go back to school and it seems that we have to have endless pots of money to provide our children with the expensive uniforms that many schools, especially secondary schools expect them to wear. Compounded with that, there is also the added pressure of all the extras that are also demanded. 

Admitting to others that the cost of buying school uniform is also very stigmatising and it prevents parents from admitting that they are struggling to cope. 

As regular reader will already know, I live on a very low income and every year I’m confronted with this problem. Luckily my daughter is still at primary school, but believe me I used to have sleepless nights about this. I don’t anymore but I expect I might have next year when she will start secondary school. 

In the past with my older children I used to be of the belief that because it was September and the start of a new school year, that they needed a full, completely new school uniform and accesories. I would go over the top in the uniform shop and supermarkets, buying everything new. That’s a habit that I had to stop out of necessity. I couldn’t afford it, so what was I going to do? 

I then decided to assess what actually needed replacing. Clothes that didn’t fit anymore were put to one side, as were any ripped clothes etc. This still left me with a good, solid base of school uniform that could be easily worn once again when the school year started again.  I would use white material brighteners (not bleach it leaves a yellow tone) on any dull shirts and then iron them well. They looked great. No one would know that they wern’t new. 

So that left me with the uniform that I needed to replace. I like to buy two cheap shirts from a supermarket etc. Avoid uniform shops like the plague if you can. Often the quality of the uniform isn’t that good and the prices are expensive. My daughter likes to wear a new shirt on the first day, after that as long as it’s clean she isn’t that bothered as long as it fits. 

I don’t know how I’ve managed this, but she had managed to fit into the same school skirt for two years. This is the first year that I’ve had to replace it and I found a plain skirt that actually fitted with room at a charity shop for a couple of pounds. I took it home, washed it, ironed it and it looks new. She also has some plain trousers that she wears when it gets cold and they still fit her and are in very good condition so they aren’t being replaced either. 

The same applies to sports kit. I always buy an oversized t shirt, and stretchy legging material shorts. I often find these in places like Aldi and Asda. School pumps as well. If the previous terms uniform still fits then don’t buy new! There is no need. 

I was then left with the task of sourcing new school socks, although only a few pairs because she still has her old socks that are in good condition. Instead of going to the local brand clothes shops, and a trip to Manchester was too expensive I decided to source her some from my local indoor market. I did this very easily, and found three pairs of knee length socks that actually reach the knees for a few pounds. Result. I saved on bus fares and complaints from the daughter that they aren’t long enough. Headaches spared as well then. 

Buying underware, well she wears what she already has. There’s no need for new underware for school. That is unless it’s too small. 

Always put names on your child’s school uniform. There is no need to buy expensive name tags etc either. Buy a set of Sharpies form the Poundshop, take the black or blue one and write their name inside their uniform. This also works better because labels can be taken off, Sharpie marks can’t so it might make the retrieval of lost school uniform easier. 

School shoes. If your child’s school shoes are ruined beyond repair or don’t fit anymore then there is no reason why they can’t wear them again. Buy some cheap shoe polish, polish them and they will look like new. If their shoes still fit but are needing repair then go to a local cobblers and have them repaired. They will make them look like new again and your child will be happy because they fit and are comfy. I always repair shoes and it has saved me a fortune throughout the years, and is often much cheaper than buying new shoes. If new shoes are needed then look on Ebay, Amazon etc. You can find some really good bargains there. If you can’t do this then try a supermarket. Go for the better constructed ones with good soles because they will last longer. 

Sandwich bags and boxes don’t need to be bought again unless their old ones are unusable. Its an unecessary expense. 

School bags. Yes I know that it looks nice to have a new school bag, but when money is low have a think. Do they really need a new school bag? I only buy new ones when its necessary because I can’t afford to otherwise. Some bags can be washed in a washing machine or wiped down. This can really improve their appearance also. 
School coat. If their coat still fits them and is in good repair then they can wear it again. It’s likely that a thick winter coat isn’t needed as soon as the new term starts anyway, so if a new coat is needed you could well find a good one in a charity shop or reduced in a shop. Expensive coats really aren’t needed, a warm cheaper coat is equally as good and if it gets damaged its easier to repair. Never buy expensive unless its a bargain in a charity shop. 

I know that the pressure for children to wear expensive uniform at secondary school is unreal. Schools are demanding too much from parents, who are already struggling to afford to feed their children. 

This is wrong and I totally disagree with it. Wearing posh logos on everything does not make a child study harder, behave better or pass exams. All I can suggest for this is to try and put a couple of quid away every week to buy this uniform. Also buy secondhand. 

Ask at the school if there are any school uniform exchanges etc. If there isn’t any suggest it to the school. Also lobby your local MP and highlight the cost of school uniforms. Talk to other parents about it also, maybe putting pressure on the school will help them to change their policies. There is nothing wrong with a plain uniform that is cheap and easy to buy.

I always replace bits of school uniform as my daughter grows. I now never buy a full set every September, and I don’t loose any sleep over it. Children can and do look smart wearing a previous terms uniform and we can hardly afford to do anything else can we. 

Enquire if there are any clothing banks local to yourself. If there aren’t then maybe start one. Check the local Facebook pages also I’ve had lot’s of bargains from these pages. 

Apologies to anyone that might already be aware of these tips, I’m not wanting to preach to the converted so to speak. If anyone has any more suggestions please write them in the comments section. Thanks .” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow noopener noreferrer”>

26 thoughts on “Back to school worries, school uniforms how can we afford to buy them? ”

  1. I don’t know if this is true but my late mother , a teacher, always maintained that if your child was attending a school where attendance was compulsory (ie not a public school or grammar school,) then school uniform could not be enforced, The school gets around this by making the parent sign an “agreement”. I remember when my step son arrived in the uk when he was 13 I reported his arrival to Tameside council who sent me to Stamford Boys school. I duly arrived and was told to fill in an application form. I refused. I told them that the law obliged me to send him to school. I was therefore telling them that I was obeying the law. and would send him where ever I was obliged to send him, But I was not asking for them to take him. My wife however went along with the school uniform.


  2. …I got fed up of working at Oxfam & volunteer at the foodbank now instead. I’d say probably about 90% of the donations Oxfam received went in the rag bag for recycling, some of it was worn out dirty old rubbish but some was perfectly good, though it does all get sorted again at Wastesavers & some of it gets sent abroad to poor countries.


  3. I don’t have these problems as I don’t have any kids, but I imagine it’s difficult for people. When i volunteered at the Oxfam depot any sort of school wear automatically went straight in the rag bag to be recycled by Wastesaver, because they didnt have an outlet for it & it wasn’t deemed to be saleable in the normal Oxfam shop. Admittedely some of it was worn out & unusable, but not all of it. It’s just that it would have taken up space in the shop & probably wouldnt have sold, considering the dozens of different schools in the area, all with different uniforms & their own badges or coat of arms, many of which couldnt be removed because they are embroidered into the fabric. You would have to have a separate shop just for second-hand s school uniforms, either that or pass a law to standardize all school uniforms nationally so they all look identically the same, but that would be like China or North Korea!


    1. Agreed. But the basics such as trousers and skirts without logos, and in good condition could have been sold or donated elsewhere. No point in wasting them and giving them to the rag man when they could be used.


      1. Yes, that’s true, and there were a lot of such items that did go straight in the rag bag – plain white shirts, black/grey trousers & pleated skirts, gym skirts etc. Oxfam just don’t want that sort stuff. They are very fussy about what they want for re-sale, just fashionable clothing with designer labels & no marks or signs of wear. It was a nightmare doing the sorting down there, I was aLWAYS getting told off for saving the wrong items, perfectly good clothes but too “old lady”, they didnt want anything by M&S for example, just stuff like River Island & Top Shop etc. & loads of other makers I’ve never heard of, I don’t know anything about fashion or high street store


  4. Charotten thank you and Katie too. Even in our deprived school you still occasionally get the rich/poor divide. When I made my comment about waiting to get the machine repaired (which I do with my own) another kid said why would you? My mum would just get a new one! Throwaway society! I just commented not everyone including myself can afford to just buy new..pause for thought OH!


  5. When I was at school, I always wore hand-me-down uniforms from my older sisters – the only thing Mum would always buy new would be undies, if needed, and shoes.
    As you say, it doesn’t take a new school uniform to be able to learn, so I’m glad people are starting to think more about using outgrown uniforms, rather than buying new, very expensive, ones 🙂


  6. Plus a lot of our children come from large families or have large extended families.’s not unusual to see siblings in uniform outgrown by siblings or cousins….and we have a spare clothes bin too of things we can put kids who come in in dirty things while we wash their clothes. Sadly we do this a lot. One child was regularly dirty and the others sometimes picked on her. I remember saying well probably their machine broke and they’re waiting for a part..Did it never happen to you? I don’t think this family even had a machine but the kid looked so relieved that someone stuck up for her! It’s so sad…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Charlotte! As you know I work in a primary school. For the first time we have opened a uniform swap shop this year where parents can donate uinform that’s too small and can source next size up. My school is largely made up of ethnic minority who choose the shalwar kameez : these can be cheaper I think as material can be bought cheaply and most mums can sew. The school also offers sewing classes and of course shalwar kameez are donated too. You do a wonderful job in a very difficult situation. When I went thorough the system as a lone parent signing on the regime was a lot kinder and it was easier to manage. Respect to you all x


  8. I know how you feel. I used to have the same problems Luckily I can sew so I used to make some of it. Summer dresses etc. But I think uniform has become big business with blazers with braiding and logos sewn into not onto the garment. I thought I recognised the uniform shop I walk most days I go to town. (Bradford phone code )


  9. Very timely. I am just writing an email to my party branch and will remember to ask for school uniform donations for the food bank/ clothes bank. Thank you.


  10. ….it’s terrible and getting worse, our local foodbank are asking for school uniforms that kids have grown out of and at my granddaughter’s school they ask for outgrown/leavers uniforms and shoes, the school are actually BUYING shoes for kids [my daughter’s friend is a teacher at the school and told her]. As my daughter said: you expect this kind of thing in Africa!


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