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How to save £4,368 on back-to-school costs

Emma Lunn
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Emma Lunn

The schools go back next week – leaving parents with a combined £1.16bn bill.

September spending is now the third biggest shopping event after Christmas and Black Friday, according to Mintel.

The retail platform put the cost of heading back to school at a combined £1.16bn this year, up from £855m last year. Uniform, shoes, computing equipment and stationary account for the bulk of back to school spending.

But Hargreaves Lansdown says parents can cut the cost of the new school year by £4,368, and put the cash towards building a £70,000 nest egg instead

Sarah Coles, personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “Going back to school used to be horrible enough when you were a chid: as an adult it’s far more painful. Everything from overpriced uniform to ruinous after-school activities drains bank accounts that were already pretty sparse after the expenses of the summer. Back to school spending costs parents £1.2 billion. Fortunately, there are ways to cut the cost.

“You might have other things to spend this money on, but it happens to be the sum you can put into a Junior ISA this year – and investing it instead can transform their university finances. If you redirect your back-to-school spending into an investment JISA each year from five to 18, you could build a nest egg worth over £70,000 by the time they leave school.

“Even if you just cut a handful of the costs, and invest the cash instead, you can give them a real head start in their adult life.”

Cost cutting techniques

Name everything

Your child is going to lose things, and having their name on everything at least increases the chances of it making its way back to you. That way you won’t end up having to replace their uniform throughout the year.

Saving: £150

Buy school uniform at the supermarket

It’s cheap, and if the school is strict on uniform, you don’t have to worry about fashion and brands. Most supermarkets offer much cheaper shoes than the major brands too. They may not last as long as pricey alternatives, but if your child is growing fast, that may not be a problem.

Saving: £100

Buy second-hand

For branded uniform, before you buy anything new, ask around among friends with older children, check whether the PTA sells second-hand uniform, and try local social media. You can buy pricey things like blazers and branded PE tops for a fraction of the full price.

Saving: £100

Move to packed lunches

You can save £1 a day on cheap primary school lunches, and £2 to £4 a day on more expensive secondary school canteens.

Saving: £780

Ditch expensive after-school activities for school freebies

Everything from drama and dance lessons to sports clubs cost a small fortune. If your child does a low cost sport out of school it might cost £150 a year, whereas a pricey drama class can set you back £900. Many of these things may be available after school cost-free.

Saving: £955

Build after-school childcare from after-school clubs

Primary schools tend to charge for this sort of thing, but secondary schools usually offer activities without a charge. If you can encourage your child to join everything from language clubs to sports, choir, computing and media clubs, you can get at least an hour of childcare after school every day without spending anything.

Saving: £975

Switch to school music classes

Solo lessons tend to be much cheaper than lessons outside of school, and a shared lesson with another child can be half the price – at around £15 per lesson instead of £30.

Saving £585

Hire the instrument from the council

If your child is wildly enthusiastic about the saxophone or French horn for six weeks, you can easily splash out £500 on an instrument that’s gathering dust by Christmas. Rental, meanwhile, might set you back £50 per term.

Saving £450

Save learning to swim for school

Primary school children get swimming lessons at school. And while ideally your child will swim long before they start school lessons, there’s a fortune to be saved each year by leaving this up to school.

Saving £273