7 TIPS FOR SAVING MONEY ON SCHOOL UNIFORMS

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The school uniform has added some potential hassles to back-to-school shopping. Uniform buying doesn’t have to be a headache, though! Here’s how to do it without wasting too much time or money.

1) MAKE ONLY THE ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY PURCHASES FROM THE “OFFICIAL” STORE FOR UNIFORMS

At a lot of schools, parents are directed to an “official” uniform store. Guidelines vary in pressuring parents to do all their shopping in the “official” store. Some schools are absurdly insistent about uniforms coming only from the official source. This might be because they demand strict adherence to dress codes, or because the school somehow receives some of the money spent in the official store. Some schools are a lot more flexible.

Check for uniform exchange programs at your kids’ school – these tend to be more common at schools that are relatively lax about requiring parents to shop at the official store. You may also want to check around at local thrift shops and see if any friendly parents are in a position to swap uniforms. 


2) BUY SCHOOL UNIFORMS ONLINE

Sometimes this means shopping through the official uniform store, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’m okay with paying extra shipping charges if I can skip the lines at the physical store in August. Check around for other vendor options while you’re shopping online, though. You can frequently find great uniform items (especially for public school uniforms) at retailers like J.C. Penney’s or Target. Double check your school’s uniform criteria before placing your orders!

Certain items, like pants for boys and blouses for girls, are almost always cheaper when you can find an acceptable third-party vendor.

3) PLAN AHEAD FOR GROWING KIDS

Make it a habit of buying school uniform pieces in the largest possible size that will stay on your children. Unless they’re absolutely swimming, room to grow is always a good thing.

This point needs some common sense applied when it comes to school shoes. Oversized shoes may cause tripping or blisters, so you only want a little bit of growing room.

When you’re shopping for shoes in the back-to-school sales, keep your eyes peeled for good deals. When you find one, buy both your children’s current size and also the next size up. 

4) THE EARLIER YOU SHOP, THE BETTER – ESPECIALLY IN RETAIL STORES

While early shopping sometimes saves you money, this tip is really about something else entirely – convenience. Back-to-school shopping can take hours if you put it off until the second half of August. Worst of all, the huge crowds may end up exhausting the available supplies of key uniform items.

Combine this tip with the previous one: When you shop early, may some extra allowances for your kids’ growth. 

5) DO AS MUCH MENDING AND ALTERATION AS POSSIBLE

When my kids first got into school uniforms, I couldn’t really sew a stitch. I turned that around quick thanks to some lessons from my Mom. Many uniform pieces are well-suited to alterations that can extend their useful life significantly. Girls’ jumpers usually have ample space for lengthening between the top and the waistband. Even being able to move a button can enable you to get another season’s use out of a uniform. Remember that older pants can be cut off and hemmed to create uniform shorts for summer.

6) UNDERSTAND WHICH ITEMS YOUR KIDS FAVOR AND WHICH THEY AVOID

My kids have a phobia about sweaters, long-sleeved shirts, and hair accessories. They’ve asked for these things from time to time, but they don’t actually like wearing them. To quiet insistent children, just buy a single example of pieces you doubt they’ll wear. I prioritize my school uniform budget to buy more of the pieces I know will see heavy use. 

7) BE CONSERVATIVE IN MULTIPLE PURCHASES 

School uniform stores aren’t going anywhere after school starts. If you end up short, you can always buy more later, but returning unused extras is a lot more difficult.

For my son, I get by with just three school uniform polos. This works because he wears a gym uniform once a week and I know I’ll be running at least one load of laundry in the middle the week. For girls’ jumpers and skirts, I rely on one new one every year with the last year’s pieces (altered as necessary) serving as backups.

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