Two boys in school uniform.

How to save money on school uniforms

Getting ready to kit out your children for the new term?

School uniform can be a big expense: UK families spend around £52 million each year on new items. But it doesn’t have to hurt. Here are our tips on how to save money on school uniforms.

Buy second-hand

It’s a fact of life that your not-so-little ones seem to outgrow their uniforms from one term to the next.  The good news is that the same thing happens to everyone. This means that someone else will be discarding a school uniform that still has lots of wear left in it and might fit your child perfectly.  And you won’t be alone:  60% of parents say they’ve bought or received pre-owned school wear for their children.

School uniform exchanges

Based on the tradition of hand-me-down clothes and the more recent fashion for clothes swaps, clothes exchange schemes are happening around the UK, often started by parents themselves. Here are just three inspiring examples.

Unicycle, based in Bangor, Northern Ireland, works with schools to help parents exchange school uniforms through donations days, repair clinics and pop-up shops.

Uniform Exchange in Kirklees, Yorkshire, set up by local mums, collects donated school uniforms and passes them on free to families that need them.

In Flintshire, the council collects donated school uniforms which are then sold through local charity shops.

Buy hard-wearing clothes

Cheap isn’t always cheerful.  Kids’ clothes can get a lot of battering, so look for clothes that will last. Clothes that need less washing, drying and ironing last longer: the bonus is that you do less washing, drying and ironing.

Many retailers are now producing school uniforms with easy-care technology or tougher materials to help them look good for longer. Here’s what to look for:

  • Clothes containing polycotton and synthetic materials, which will drip dry.
  • “Non-Iron” shirts.
  • Teflon™ coating, which helps repel spills and releases stains easily in the wash.

Get the most from your outgrown school uniform

  • Look at altering it – can you let the hem down or let the waistband out? (If you need some help, try our care and repair section for basic sewing techniques.)
  • Pass it on to a sibling or friend, or do a swap.
  • Sell it online, at a car boot sale or through a cash for clothes scheme. Relike, for example, is an online marketplace specifically for used children's clothes.
  • Donate it at a clothing bank, doorstep collection or charity shop.
  • Don’t put it in the bin! Even old school clothes that can no longer be worn can be recycled. Check our recycling locator for where to recycle clothes near you.