5 ways to save money on back to school costs

How to save money on back to school spending, including advice for school uniforms, tech and transport

How to save money on back to school costs
(Image credit: Element5 Digital / Unsplash)

While we’re all still enjoying the summer holidays, back to school season is on the horizon! Whether you’re a student yourself or you have a child going into a new school year, it’s time to start thinking about what you need for yours or your kid’s next term.

This could mean a new laptop, new textbooks, new backpacks… the list goes on. However, considering the cost of living price hikes, buying new items for the next school or college year has become a little tricky.

To help you save money before the school term starts, here’s 5 ways to save money on back to school costs, from school uniforms to transport.

1. Look at what you already have & decide what you need

Before you start shopping, it’s always a good idea to look at what you already have and decide what you really need. Start by making a list of essentials you or your child will need for back to school, like uniforms, notepads, lunchboxes, laptops and so on. Now assess what you already have in your possession from the last school year and ask yourself ‘Can it last another year?’ If it can, hold on to it and that way, you have less things to buy for the new term.

Keep in mind that the items you’re holding on to don’t have to last a full year. As the term starts in September, you can use your older products for the first term and then you can think about replacing things during the Black Friday (opens in new tab) or Christmas sales. Once you’ve got a list of what you definitely need, stick to it! Buying new things for back to school can add up quickly so it’s best to plan ahead and only buy the things you need.

2. Shop the sales

The next way to save money on back to school costs is by shopping the sales. Many big brand retailers run back to school sales, like Amazon (opens in new tab), Argos (opens in new tab), John Lewis (opens in new tab), Very (opens in new tab), M&S (opens in new tab) and more. Depending on where you look, you can find low prices on uniforms, stationery, textbooks, electronics and other school supplies. The sales will have tons of deals in a wide range of products, and you’ll often find offers where you can buy in bulk, for example, stationery is a lot cheaper when bought in a pack and can last for longer.

For tech products like laptops, monitors and tablets, check out Apple (opens in new tab), Dell (opens in new tab), HP (opens in new tab), Lenovo (opens in new tab) and Acer (opens in new tab). If you don’t know what device you need, we’ve got a full series of student guides for you to find the best prices on the best products, for example, best student laptops (opens in new tab), best student tablets (opens in new tab), best student Chromebooks (opens in new tab), best student printers (opens in new tab), best laptops for engineering students (opens in new tab) and best laptops for design students (opens in new tab).

Back to school costs

(Image credit: Matt Ragland / Unsplash)

3. Buy second hand, refurbished & own brand

Buying second hand and refurbished school uniforms and electronics are a great way to be more sustainable and save money at the same time. According to guidance from the Department of Education, schools are being advised to run second hand uniform sales for pupils, and local charity shops and retailers like eBay and Facebook Marketplace have cheap offers. Another way to save money on school uniforms is checking out supermarket own-brand clothing. More schools are being asked to keep branded uniforms to a minimum and many supermarkets stock plain clothing that you can get for low prices at your local supermarket. Once you have your kids’ uniforms ready for the next term, remember to label them to prevent any losses and so they can be easily identified in lost and found.

Tech tends to be on the more expensive side but if you or your child is heading off to university, it’s best to have a laptop or tablet in your possession to write essays, video call with family and watch lectures remotely. But if you’re low on money, shopping second hand or refurbished tech is a great place to start. They’re cheaper than newer models and have been professionally tested, cleaned and revitalised to be in like-new condition. See reasons to shop certified refurbished (opens in new tab) for more details.

4. Apply for free school meals or switch to packed lunches

Depending on your circumstances, your child could qualify for free school meals which can help you cut your costs significantly. You can apply for free school meals on the GOV.UK website and you’ll be informed whether or not you’re eligible. If you’re not, switch to packed lunches instead of paying for school dinners. This not only helps you save money but it’s a great way to curb your kid’s fussy eating habits and can be a lot healthier.

5. Switch up your transport

Fuel prices have had the biggest impact on our monthly bills and have made running errands and even doing the school run much more expensive. If you’re close enough to school, college or university, switch up how you get there, for example, if you’re within walking distance, walk or cycle to school to save on driving and get in extra exercise. For students far away from campus, have a look at student bus or train passes to save extra money on tickets and long journeys.

Bethan Girdler-Maslen
Acting Wellness Editor & Deals Writer

As T3's resident Shopping Expert and Deals Writer, Beth covers deals, discount codes, how to save money and seasonal holidays, including Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Amazon Prime Day, Boxing Day and Easter sales. Alongside her primary focus of deals, Beth is currently Acting Wellness Editor, covering all things sleep, yoga, relaxation and general wellbeing.


Having always been passionate about writing, she’s written for websites, newspapers and magazines on a variety of topics, from jewellery and culture, to food and telecoms. You can find her work across numerous sites, including Wedding Ideas Magazine, Health & Wellbeing, The Bristol Post, Fashion & Style Directory and more. In her spare time, Beth enjoys running, reading, baking and attempting DIY craft projects that will probably end in disaster!