Back to School Budgeting – It doesn’t have to cost you the earth!

Its that time of the year the dreaded back to school shop. I am now in my 9th year of back to school, so like to think I have got it down to a fine art and know the best places to buy everything for the best quality and the lowest prices. I have been out this week and can confirm there is PLENTY of stock left in the supermarkets so do not fear you will find what you need and not end up spending a small fortune*.

*Unless you have a child going into year 7, that I have to confess is a very expensive time for uniform.

Here are my tips to help you with your back to school budgeting, it really doesn’t have to cost you the earth.

My Shopping List this year, pretty standard list, same as every year

  • Polo shirts for primary school
  • Button up formal shirts for secondary school
  • Trousers for secondary school
  • Shorts for primary school
  • PE Trainers
  • School shoes
  • Stationery
  • Packed Lunch Box
  • Drinks Bottles

Before Buying Anything Check Second Hand

Do you have any friends with older children that have clothes in good condition that can be passed down? This is hugely useful for bigger ticket items like secondary school blazers or PE kits that ‘have to’ have school badges on them.

Primary Vrs Secondary School

I noticed a huge change in spending when my boys started at secondary school. That first year seven back to school shop is a big one and I remember bulking at the huge amount I spent. It was made so much worse when most of the items are only available from specific shops who can set whatever prices they want. Blazers, PE short, T-shirts, Hoodies, Rugby shirts, socks. All of this had to school logo’d up.

I bought BIG when my eldest started year 7, his blazer still fits him 2 years later, as does the expensive PE kit. Winning.

Primary schools are generally more flexible and your children are normally fine in plain jumpers, polo shirts and plain PE kits.

Both primary and secondary schools have second hand shops where you can buy things much cheaper to help out. Better for the environment and for the wallet.

Polo Shirts, Button formal shirts, shorts & Trousers

These items are cheapest to buy at Aldi, BUT Aldi sell their back to school range in July/early August and it normally sells out that day. Really not good for the more last minute shopping mums like me.

I like Asda for the standard school uniform bits. The polo shirts are long lasting, £3 for two shirts, this is a standard supermarket price. The formal button up shirt are also from Asda and were £5 for two shirts, 50p cheaper than Tesco. Shorts and trousers also come from Asda, costing around £10 for two pairs of trousers and £7 for two pairs of shorts.

Jumpers without logos and great from the supermarket costing around £5 for two jumpers. Does your child lose these all the time? Mine do, there is no point, in my view, spending £15 on a logo jumper.

This supermarket shopping saved a small fortune. Most schools say uniform is back, grey, navy trousers and white shirts. Easily found in the supermarket.

Plain black and white school uniform


Winter coats are not really needed quite yet, but I like to get these in the early summer sales and I absolutely do hand-me downs to my younger children!


School shoes, shock horror I hate buying them. The boys goes through at least two pairs of shoes each every year. I do not buy expensive, I have tried to buy quality, but they still don’t last after the endless football, and the running around that they do. For my eldest at secondary school we go to Next as he needs men sized shoes. Lace-ups are around £35. We did look in Clarks, but the equivalent shoes (that were so hard to find in his size) were £48!

Primary school shoes are always bought from Sports Direct, normally around £20 for a pair of plain black trainers. They double up for PE as well. Plimsolls, if needed, are super cheap from supermarkets.

Football boots to pass on to others

Football boots are a huge expense. I love to get hand me downs from friends and pass on hand me downs too. My favourite place to buy boots is Pro direct soccer. This website always has a sale and are often cheaper than the high street. Returns are easy, ordering is easy.

Also shop from your local Facebook items for sale or Ebay for second hand boots.

Stationery, Packed Lunch Boxes and Drinks Bottles

I have got all of these bits from Asda. Tupper wear boxes are perfect for lunchboxes. Sturdy and not embarrassing for secondary school and cost £2/3 rather than up to £10 for a fabric cartoon lunch box. I send all my children to school with packed lunches and save a small fortune. I have written about money saving ways with packed lunches here.

The drinks bottles I bought this year are metal, as the plastic ones are dropped and break. I found some great bottles that keep drinks cold for 12 hours for £3 in Asda, I even bought one for myself.

The stationery aisle is my FAVOURITE part of the supermarket. All we needed was a see through pencil case 95p (has to be see through as they do inspections at our secondary school!), ruler 95p and highlighters 95p. But I also bought a health and wellness journal and a pack of metallic pens for me, £4.25 spent. Haha.

Back to school stationery

Name labels

Stick on labels from Easy2name Different prices and packages depending what you want. There is a pack of 60 stick on stickers for clothes £8.95. These come recommended by many mummies. Or write names on lables with a sharpie. Much cheaper.

For More Family Money Saving Tips Read My Book

For many more money saving tips, and a whole chapter on family money saving check out my book The Money Guide to Transform Your Life.

The Money guide to transform your life - my book

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Lynn Beattie

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Personal Finance Expert

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5 Responses

  1. Good job on the shoes…I was fairly upset having to pay that for shoes…and if my boys trash them I will not be happy. Ive never seen yelloow polo shirts…but could you get the cheap white ones and get some dylon washing machine dye? It cant be that hard??!!

  2. Asda have yellow polo shirts advertised in their back to school booklet Hayley. Does say some colours and sizes available online only though. Good luck!

  3. Thanks for your advice. Our son is going to an elementary school – and soon we will also need to make similar purchases and plan his schedule. I already feel like I’m going to be burdened by these problems

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