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Back to school can be an expensive time for parents, what with new uniforms, new shoes, a new school bag and everything else your child needs for the new term. All those extra costs can feel like a real drain but don't worry, we have lots of tips on how you can save money on school items. 

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Parent's top tips for budgeting school costs

Tip #1: Find your local pass it on schemes

Check if the school has a school book library or uniform pass it on scheme - this can really help cut costs on things like books and blazers. School uniforms and shoes can be really expensive, so see if you can apply for a school clothing grant from your local council.

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Tip #2: Spread the cost

Make a list of what your child needs for the first day of school and see if there's anything on it that you could buy later in the year. For example, they might need a school bag straight away but a lunch box or winter jacket you might be able to put off until October.

Keep an eye on the sales too. Buying little things here and there when they're on offer can really help. But don’t get carried away, especially with clothing. Kids grow quickly, jumpers don’t!

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Tip #3: What are the back to school essentials?

Your school will give you a list of anything your little one needs as the big day gets closer. Different ages need different things but the above are a good place to start.

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Tip #4: Figure out what you really need and make a list

It's always worth reviewing what you used last year to see what you really need. Once you know where the gaps are, make a shopping list before you go out. This really keeps budgets down and your child can help tick them off when you buy them.

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Tip #5: Swap supplies

Before you go out shopping, ask around if anyone has spares. If your friends have slightly older kids they might have hand me down blazers or backpacks. If you buy anything in a 2 for the price of 1 deal but only need 1, you could trade the spare with your friends. You might be able to trade them for lunchboxes or a night of free babysitting!

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Tip #6: Shop second-hand

Charity shops and second-hand stores such as Revolve certified Apparel exchanges are a great place to find school essentials like bags, lunch boxes and coats. Not only will you save money, you’ll also be doing your bit for good causes and the environment! Your child's school may have a second-hand uniform shop too. You can find out more about shopping second-hand here.

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Tip #7: Tag that bag!

Children aren’t always the best at hanging on to their things. Name tags on uniforms, school bags, or pencil cases can avoid both tears and extra costs later in the year.

Stamp and iron-on name tags can be pricey so why not write your child’s name directly on the label of their jumper or the inside of their bag? 

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Tip #8: Getting free school meals

Photo of spaghetti bolognese

All children get free school meals during term-time if they go to a local authority school and are in primary 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5.

Please visit the website to find out if your child is eligible to receive free school meals.

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Tip #9: Getting free meals for toddlers

Lots of little ones also get free meals at their Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) provider before they’re old enough to go to school. You can find out more at the website.

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Tip #10: Get help with school transport costs

Lots of local councils provide free school transport. You can get this for your child if:

  • Their school isn't within walking distance - walking distance is over 2 miles from home to school if your child is under 8 or over 3 miles if your child is over 8
  • Your child has additional support needs - like a disability
  • Your child has a health issue which stops them walking to school
  • Your child can't attend school in their catchment area (for example, if the local school is full)
  • Your family has a low income
  • There's no safe route for your child to walk or cycle to school

In addition, all young people and children aged 5-21 years can apply for a card to access the Young Persons’ (Under 22s) Free Bus Travel Scheme. You can find out more about the scheme and how to apply at

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Tip #11: Check if your child is eligible for an Education Maintenance Allowance

If you have a child who is 16 to 19 years old and wants to continue learning at school or college, your child may be eligible for an Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA). To see if your child is eligible, visit the website.

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Make sure you're getting all of the help you're entitled to

Contact your local council or get advice from the Money Talk Team to find out if you're missing out on support you're entitled to. 

The Money Talk Team is a great resource for helping parents make their money go further and making sure that you’re not missing out on support you’re entitled to. 

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