Kitting your kids out with all the essentials can stretch finances thin. That new uniform or pair of shoes just keeps looming on the horizon – not to mention toys, books and sports kit.
With canny shopping, though, you can cut costs considerably. We show you how to tick off everything on the list, without paying a fortune.
Big supermarkets do combination deals offering the essential bits of uniform for around £10-15. Also check out the School Uniform Shop for reduced prices as well as Patched Elephant, a marketplace website for second-hand uniforms, including Brownies. Also ask whether your child’s school runs a second-hand sale or swap shop for uniforms.
2. Musical instruments
Want a flute for a song? The Assisted Purchase scheme means pupils at LEA schools can buy instruments through the LEA provided they are being taught that instrument in the school. No VAT is charged on the sale, reducing the cost. Or minimise outlay until you know your child really does love the violin by renting (or renting-to-buy) an instrument from a music shop – the bonus is that you can trade it in for bigger versions as your virtuoso grows.
3. Sports kit
For sports kit and equipment, make savings in end of season or last season stock sales at online shops such as SportsDirect.com, where essentials can be up to 80% off.
Growing feet make children’s shoes a big expense. To economise without compromising on the health of their feet, have a fitting at Clarks or Start-Rite (or do it yourself with their online measuring guides). Then shop around for shoes – their periodic website sales offer shoes up to half price, while discount online outlets, such as ShoesForKids.co.uk, sell shoe brands at up to 60% off.
Cut your toy budget at car boots, NCT nearly new sales and with classified ads. Or check out Freecycle, where people give away their unwanted stuff (you pick it up). Or join a toy library - the National Association of Toy & Leisure libraries website (Natll.org.uk) lists them all.
Fill your children’s bookshelves at discount book e-tailers such as The Book People or RedHouse.co.uk. Savings can be huge – the best deal we found was the complete Read at Home collection, 31 volumes for £15, saving £108.69. Also collect free books through the book start scheme (Bookstart.co.uk) – and don’t forget to join your local library!
If you can’t face a ‘kitchen scissors’ haircut get a group of children together, make a block booking at a hairdresser and ask for a discount. Or hit barber’s, for boys, offering cheap cuts. You could also try beauty schools where trainee hairdressers cost 25-50% less than normal price.
The average cost of using disposable nappies for the first two years is around £900. Switch to reusable toweling nappies and that drops to around £400. And these days, they’re (almost) as easy to use, with pull up options you bung in the washing machine, not the bin. If you're not convinced, babykind offers a two-week trial kit. If reusable nappies are just not for you, keep your eye on special retailer deals on nappies.
Own-brand liquid paracetamol suspensions are always cheaper. As long as the active ingredient is the same, all the rest is branding! Cheaper alternatives include Poundland’s strawberry flavoured Galpomol at £1 and Boots’ own brand at £1.78 (compared to £2.85 for Calpol). Or get your doctor to prescribe liquid paracetamol, taking the cost down to zero.
Shops such as IKEA and TescoDirect.com are great for the Holy Grail of kids’ furniture: inexpensive and stylish but won’t fall apart under heavy use. Ebay and second-hand furniture shops will also yield bargains, as well as unusual items such as traditional desks.