Sunday, 12 August 2012

Can you kit your child out for school on £80?

Cubling will be starting school in, ahem, 3 days time. Which means that we had to embark on this school uniform business, which to me is new territory as I didn't go to school in the UK and there were no school uniforms in Germany. It was daunting to say the least and I felt a tiny bit lost and aimless when I went into this experience having no idea what is needed, how much of it and where to get the best bargains. After having done it (and having made some mistakes), I'm sure I'll do better next time.

Most Wanted, the lifestyle magazine of has set me the challenge to source a full back to school kit on the high street for under £80. That's a challenge I'm really keen to take (I'm pretty sure I went over!), and maybe there are some useful ideas for those of you down south who are still doing the back to school shop.

I started out with a list of items from my daughter's school website and the recommendation of a specialised shop. We headed there first, because there were some pieces which had logos on them and I wanted to make sure we got them from this shop. Unfortunately, something got lost in translation and I walked out with a pinafore costing £15 but no logo wear (and no information as to which items actually have the school logo), and a tie for £3.50. Eventually I found out that it was the jumper and the polo shirts - I'd bought the latter already so added 2 jumpers to the bill at £9 each. Well, at least I supported a local shop with my purchase. Another specialist shop had a 10% off week but we didn't manage to take advantage of it, so I could have saved £2.

We were lucky to walk into a 25% off all clothing sale at Sainsbury's and I jumped at the opportunity. However, I wasn't the only one so there wasn't an awful lot left in the correct size. I did buy a set of 2 blouses (£2), 2 skirts (£3.75 and £4.50) and a pack of 3 polo shirts (£2.25).

Next up was Tesco, which wasn't as cheap full price, but still pretty cheap in comparison to other shops. I bought a two pairs of trousers (£3 each) and a cardigan (£3). While the price tag was great, the material wasn't in part and I really don't like the feel of the trousers and the cardigan. If you shop at Tesco's a lot, you can get double your value from your clubcard vouchers.

Finally we went on the "get all the rest" mission, with a visit to Clarks for shoes. While this totally burst our budget, I was keen to get decent shoes that would last daily wear. We got a pair of normal shoes (£34), and plimsoles (£9). A quick visit to M&S got us another pinafore (£6), and a school bag (£12). While this was not the cheapest deal, I knew I could take the gear back if not needed and I have to say that the feel of the clothes was much better than those bought at Tesco's.

Pencil case and notebook had been given as presents and we're still to get a water bottle which I've seen from £2.99.

There was talk of a blazer, however it is not listed as part of the school uniform. While they can cost £60, I have seen blazers for £15 in some supermarkets, so it's doable on a budget. Still, if you add shoes and blazer there's hardly any money left to get the rest. School uniform definitely is an expense on the family pocket, although hopefully it will mean less money is spent on other clothes.

As part of my attempt to live more sustainably, I had tried to get some back to school clothes second hand. I wasn't very lucky sourcing anything second hand. I trailed all our local charity shops but they just shook their heads, arguing that as the items were cheap in supermarket chains, there was no market for second hand. This is a real shame and once again demonstrates how we have become a throwaway society and don't value resources. If the gear is still ok, I don't see why they wouldn't be good enough to use again. Apparently there is one charity shop that specialises in children's wear and back to school wear, and it's located in Uddingston (which I decided was too far for us).

So, I could have kept the budget lower and my top tips are:
- shop for cheaper shoes. I'm sure there are plimsoles for £2.50 in some shops, and supermarket shoes are cheaper too. I have been bitten on quality before and decided to splash out as there's no use saving on shoes if you have to buy a second pair a month later. (£22 saving)
- Don't buy clothes from specialist shops (£9 saving)
- Plan your shop: look out for the best deal and don't get more than you need (£5-£20 saving)
- Keep an eye out for special offer days, I'm sure every shop will have these at some point during the summer holidays

- Know what you need and stick to it - I'm sure 2 pinafores, 2 skirts and 2 trousers are totally overdoing it. We have no dress because the school colour is blue and Cubling point blank refused. I'm sure I'll shop more wisely next year when I know exactly what gets worn and what is needed.
- Set time aside to research or source second hand - because I shopped with 2 kids I often just went for whatever I saw first rather than consider the price. Also if I had had more time I'd have trailed ebay for second hand stuff. There is a lot on right now, so you may still grab yourself a bargain, and that's where you can get a good deal especially on the more expensive items.

What we spent:
pinafores: £21
skirts: £8.25
trousers: £6
blouses: £2
polo shirst: £2.25
cardigan: £3
jumpers: £18
tie: £3.50

bag: £12
shoes: £43
= £119 - £36 potential saving if I'd shopped with a budget in mind: £83. So it is almost possible to shop with a £80 budget, but I have a feeling you'll have to compromise on shoes, and have a hawk's eye for special deals, plus a lot of determination to spot those bargains! Do you have any tips that I missed out on?

Full disclosure: I received £80 to spend on schoolwear as a research project from for this article. It was a great opportunity to try and see if I can kit out my daugher on a budge. All contents and views are mine and specific links are not sponsored but are items we actually bought. The decision to buy these was entirely mine.


Anonymous said...

I have learned the hard way to buy almost everything from M&S and buy big because that stuff LASTS. Shoes from clarks do last longer, do not get super cheap shoes. Save $$ on tights, socks and polo shirts. Those can be bought cheaply as they wear out and get stained anyway. You did pretty well by the looks of it!

Tallulah@Bilingual Babes said...

Good attempt! Some of those items are astonishingly cheap. We are lucky in that we only have one uniform item to buy (a pinafore).

cartside said...

Yes I was surprised how cheap some items were and how much we spent alltogether in spite of it! I have bought expensive shoes in the past that also didn't last, but so far have had good experience with Clarks - although I really don't like this toy in the shoe business.



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