Back-to-school season can seem a world away, while you’re making the most of the summer holidays.
But the rush to get kids ready for the new term will be here before you know it – and with bills surging generally, it’s particularly important to have an action plan this year, with budgets tighter than ever.
Adam Bullock, UK director of TopCashback.co.uk, shares the following tips for reining in those purse strings when kitting kids out for school…
1. Prepare a shopping list now
That way, you can tick items off as and when they are on offer (a bit like ticking off a bingo card). Bullock says that, before doing any shopping, also spend some time auditing your children’s wardrobe and cupboards, as you may be surprised at how much they have already that can be reused.
“Once the inventory check is complete, put together a list of everything your kids need, not want, and tick things off as and when there are offers for each item,” he says. “It will take leg work but if you really need to watch the pennies, it takes more than just sticking to a shopping list.”
2. Check if you can buy second hand
Kids outgrow things fast, so buying brand new all the time can really add up. At the same time, you could also help out other parents by donating any items you no longer need.
“Many schools have pre-loved uniform service, so checking if that’s available to you should be the first point of action,” says Bullock. “If that’s not an option, why not check on the parents’ group chat if anyone is looking to give away or swap items they no longer need?
“Alternatively, it’s worth scouting out Facebook Marketplace and popping into your local charity shops – you never know what you might find. And if you have a child that has outgrown a perfectly good school uniform, pop it into a charity shop or see if there are any recycling initiatives near you.
“M&S for example, offers its Sparks customers a free treat every time they place pre-loved clothes into one of their ‘Shwop’ boxes in store.”
If you’re visiting Marks & Spencer, it may also be worth bearing in mind that it’s rolling out an M&S Opticians service, and says it provides free eyecare to children under 16, including free eye tests, plus prescription glasses up to the value of £49.
The retailer has also launched ‘Sparks Days Out’, offering customers spending over £35 on clothing and home – including schoolwear – access to savings at over 2,000 UK family attractions and experiences across the UK.
3. Browse for bargains online
Shopping online can help you to compare deals quickly and calmly, rather than a frantic dash between shops with the kids in tow. Also, do your research and look for discount codes and cashback offers online, which can help to ease the strain on your wallet.
4. See if you are eligible for any support, such as grants
Depending on individual circumstances and where you live, it may be possible to get support from your local council or school to help with the cost of school uniform or PE kits. More information can be found at gov.uk/help-school-clothing-costs.
5. Do a supermarket sweep
And don’t forget to check out stationary and lunchboxes, as well as uniforms, while you’re at it. “Life with kids can get very busy, so carving out time to do back-to-school shopping can be tricky,” says Bullock. “To save time, see if you can combine shopping for school essentials with your weekly shop.
“All the big supermarkets tend to run back-to-school events during summer, all with various claims and money-back promises. Make sure you keep an eye out for those and look at the guarantees as well as the pricing.”
If you miss some supermarkets’ big events, it’s worth checking out stationary and lunchboxes in supermarkets anyway, as they may be cheaper than buying elsewhere.
6. Make big savings by buying refurbished tech
“Whether you have an older child who needs a laptop to work on complex projects, or your teen has been begging for a new phone – consider buying a refurbished device,” says Bullock. “Not only is this a much greener choice, but it will also help you save a good chunk of money.”
He suggests making sure items come with a decent warranty before buying, however. “You could also check if you can get a refurbished device directly from the manufacturer, as quite a few of the big names offer this service.”
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