Save Money on School Uniforms

School uniforms don't have to be a major investment. Use these tips to save big.

Skip the Uniform Store

School Uniforms
Photo © Flickr user Florian_Ramel

If your school doesn't require you to buy from a specific uniform store, shop around for the best deal. With so many public schools shifting to uniforms, you can now find uniforms at most major retailers:

Hit the Thrift Stores

Thrift stores are a great source for solid-colored polos, dress shirts, khakis and more. To increase your chance of finding everything on your back-to-school list, shop the thrift stores that are closest to your children's school. They're bound to have a bigger inventory of school uniforms than most.

More Second-Hand Sources to Try:

Take Part in a Uniform Swap

Swapping uniforms with another family is a great way to keep your kids in proper dress as they grow. Arrange an informal swap among your friends, or participate in a school-wide swap.

Buy Big

Plan for growth spurts by buying uniforms that are a bit big at the start of the year. An extra inch of length in the leg and sleeve and an adjustable waistband in pants and skirts could save you from having to buy new uniforms part-way through the year.

Buy Quality

Choose well-made pieces with thick fabric, so uniforms last the entire school year, and perhaps even the next one. If clothes will be passed on to a younger sibling (or swapped after they've been outgrown) this is especially important.

Shop Late

You'll find plenty of sales on school uniforms in July, August, and September, but the real deals won't come until after the kids are back in school. Buy enough to get them through the first couple months. Then, buy the rest in October when everything goes on clearance.

Buy Ahead

Whenever you come across a good deal on school uniforms, shop for your children's current needs, but also think ahead to their future needs. There's nothing like stocking up on wardrobe essentials at clearance prices.

Shop Off Season

For absolute rock-bottom prices on school uniforms, shop this year's end-of-season sales for everything you're going to need next year. It's an easy way to get everything from socks to blazers at 75% off or more.

Set a Sales Alert

Be the first to know when there's a uniform sale. Just create a Google Alert for the term "school uniform sale," and you'll receive an e-mail anytime a new sale pops up on the web. Interested in clearance events only? Then, try "school uniform clearance" instead.

Buy Less; Wash More

Having a uniform for every day of the week is nice, but it isn't necessary. If you're working with a limited budget, buy more shirts and fewer bottoms. Pants, skirts , and jumpers can easily be worn more than once before washing. The same is true for blazers and ties.

Alter and Mend

Before you replace uniforms that have become too small or damaged to wear, see what you can do to rehab them. A small alteration or mend may be all it takes to return them to service.

Label Everything

One problem with uniforms: everyone's stuff looks the same. Stick your children's names on everything, so their stuff has a chance of getting back to them if it gets lost or picked up by mistake. A few minutes spent with a Sharpie now could save you several costly replacements later.