Buying Kids' School Uniforms

Tips to save time and money when shopping for your kids' school uniforms

Buying your kids' school uniforms can be easier—and a whole lot cheaper—than you think. These seven tips for buying kids' school uniforms will help you save time and money when your family is headed back to school.

Only Buy What You Have to From the School's Uniform Store

Schoolgirl running in the corridors
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Many schools have an official uniform store, but schools vary as to how insistent they are that parents shop in these stores. Some schools can be pretty insistent, either because they receive a kickback or they want strict adherence to the uniform rules, while others don't care where parents get uniforms.​

One thing you can do is see if your child's' school has a uniform exchange program (a good sign the school isn't strict about shopping at the uniform store). You can also see if you can swap with a friend and look for items at your local thrift shop. Kids grow out of uniforms so quickly, it's a good bet that a perfectly good uniform has been donated to a thrift shop.

Buy Kid's Uniforms Online

Public school uniforms, in particular, are often available from stores like Target or J. C. Penney's. But, before you make any purchases, just be sure they meet your school’s criteria.

Items like girls blouses and boys pants can almost always be found cheaper outside the uniform store.

Remember, Kids Grow Really Fast

Buy as large a size as you can without your child absolutely swimming in the school uniform. Make sure shoes fit well with some room to grow, but not too much. Shoes that are too big can be a tripping hazard. Instead of buying shoes extra large, if you find a good deal on shoes during the back-to-school sale season, buy the next size up too.

Buy Early, Especially If You Buy From a Uniform Store

This tip is more about convenience than saving money. These stores can take hours to navigate in mid-August, and you may very well walk away without everything you need for your kids' school uniform. But, if you're going to shop early, make extra allowances for growth.

Alter and Mend School Uniforms

If you can't sew, find someone willing to help. Girls jumpers can often be lengthened between the waistband and the top of the jumper. Even simple fixes like moving buttons can stretch the life of a uniform. Another trick is, you can cut off and hem pants to make summer school uniform shorts.

Observe What Kids Actually Use

A lot of kids will claim that they will absolutely wear long-sleeve shirts, sweaters, and hair accessories—but they never will. If they insist on something and it's doubtful they’ll use it, either just buy one or borrow the item from a friend. If they do use it, then you can always buy more—a much sounder option.

Be Conservative When Deciding How Many of Each Item You Need

It's not like the school uniform store goes out of business in October. You can always buy more, but you can't return many items.

If you have a son, you may only need three polo shirts with logos. If your son is like most boys, he'll likely wear a gym uniform as well and if you're doing the wash one or two times during the week, you'll be set. Especially if you've saved the best uniform items from the previous year (always a smart plan). 

Since girls' jumpers and skirts don’t get dirty, buy one new one and use last year’s (maybe altered a bit) as the backup.