How to save money on school uniforms, meals and travel

Buying new school uniforms can put significant pressure to your budget. However, with a little bit of planning and shopping around for the best deals, it’s possible to save money on these annual costs. What’s more, depending on your personal circumstances, you may be entitled to extra financial help.

child putting on shoesPlanning ahead is essential to keeping school uniform expenses under control.

If you put off buying your school uniforms until the last minute, this can have quite an impact on your budget. This is especially true if you’re dealing with a debt problem.

When you’re on a debt solution, funds are allocated in your monthly budget for clothing. It’s worth setting aside some money every month towards your school uniform costs.

When the time comes to purchase new school uniforms you should have sufficient funds set aside to cover some or all of the costs.

Find school uniform bargains

Even though you’re obviously on the lookout for school uniforms to cover this year, it’s worth also considering buying extra uniform items with next year in mind, especially if you see them going cheap.

Your children are growing all of the time. Buying a size bigger than they need right now means that you can accommodate any growth spurts that occur between now and next September. This can also help you stay ahead of your budget and keep the costs more manageable.  

Save money on the school logo

Some schools have policies regarding school uniforms. This can mean that certain parts of the uniform, such as sweatshirts and blazers, need to have the school badge or logo. However, this doesn’t mean that you need to buy everything directly from the school or a specialist retailer.  Many items can be purchased at much lower prices from the high street or supermarkets.

Some schools sell the fabric school badges separately. These can then be applied to more generic lower priced items and is a great way to save money.

Our friends at go into more detail on this on their website.

Can your child’s school help with uniform costs?

Some school understand that uniforms can be costly and will have schemes in place in order to help struggling families. Ask your school if they have any kind of assistance in place. Some schools also have uniform sales and you can often pick up new, nearly new and high quality seconds at a fraction of the normal cost.  

Figure out what items are essential

mum and daughter on way to schoolSome schools provide a comprehensive list of uniform items. Some are must-haves (such as the school tie) while others are nice-to-haves (a sweater that’s in the school’s ‘official’ shade of blue versus another, ‘close enough’ shade that’s available in your local supermarket).

It’s worth checking with the school to see what items are compulsory and what items are just recommendations. An example of this is a school blazer, which is often the most expensive school uniform item on your list. Be careful with this, as schools may insist on a certain shade or material for your child’s blazer (I know my school did!).

Are name tags worth it?

It can be frustrating and expensive when your child misplaces or loses an item of clothing at school. It costs a couple of pounds to get personalised name tags to sew onto your child’s clothes, but the extra piece of mind is worth it. Should the item be lost or misplaced you’ll have a much better chance of the item being returned to you.

Where to go for further help with school uniform costs

Local council

You may also be able to get help towards the costs of school uniforms from your local council. Visit the website for more information.

Governing bodies or parents’ associations

Governing bodies or parents’ associations may be able to provide some financial support or advice about school uniforms. This information is normally displayed at the school or included in information provided to parents about the school. You can also contact the parents’ association or the school’s head teacher directly.


There are some charities that will provide a grant to assist with some of the costs of their child’s education. These often have a limited amount of funds available and you generally need to meet specific criteria to qualify for assistance. Visit the Turn2Us website for more information.


If you’re a member of UNISON and if you have a child in full time education, you may be eligible to receive a school uniform grant from their charity ‘There for You’.

How to save money on other school costs

Travel costs

Your children may be eligible for free transport or help towards the cost of travelling to school. This is dependent upon how far they need to walk to school or any special needs they have.

All children between 5 and 16 qualify for free school transport if they go to their nearest suitable school and live at least:

  • 2 miles from the school and they’re under 8
  • 3 miles from the school and they’re 8 or older

Find out more on the website.

School meals

These are often set at a fixed price by the school so the options to reduce this cost are limited. An alternative option is to provide a packed lunch from home. Costs can be saved by buying in bulk and preparing things in advance. It can also be a fun way to get the children involved in preparing their own lunch.

You may also be eligible for free school meals. In England and Wales, local education authority maintained schools must provide a free midday meal to pupils if they or their parents receive:

  • Income-based Jobseekers Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Income Support
  • Universal Credit
  • The guaranteed part of Pension Credit
  • Support for asylum seekers, under the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • Child Tax Credit, but only if they’re not also getting Working Tax Credit (WTC) and their income is below a certain amount. However, if they’re in the four week run-on period for WTC after stopping work or reducing working hours, then they may be eligible for free school meals.

To apply for free school meals you need to contact your local council.

The back to school top tips don’t stop there! Our friend Ricky WIllis A.K.A. Skint Dad put together a list of back to school tips to help you deal with dilemmas such as covering school trips and tackling head lice (which can be costlier than you may think!).

Do you have any tips for parents looking to save money on school uniforms? Let us know in the comments!

Posted by in Saving money