44 Simple Ways to Save Money on Back To School

Back to School is a costly time for families with children needing new books, uniforms, stationery, shoes, bags, lunch boxes…. not to mention school fees and after school activities too. Help is on hand with our 44 Simple Ways to Save Money on Back to School in association with M&S Ireland. 

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School Books

School Books

School books can be a large part of back to school costs. But there are simple ways to save money on back to school books by:

#1. Using your schools’ book rental scheme if one is in place. If your school currently does not have a book rental scheme in place, ask them to poll parents to see if there is an interest in implementing one.

#2. Purchasing books second hand where possible either from a second had specialist bookshop or your school. Remember to check that you have the correct edition.

#3. Using early buying discounts offered by school book suppliers. Often if you purchase your books before the summer break, you can receive discount or get free book covering.

#4. Shopping around when you have to buy new books and comparing prices from online retailers and local suppliers.

#5. Exchange books with other parents from school.

#6. Check with friends whether they have second hand copies of the books you need. You could use social media to do this.

#7. Selling your child’s second hand books in order to pay for their new books. To enable you to get the best price, be sure to teach your kids the importance of looking after their school books.

School Uniforms

Marks and Spencer scholar

If your school has a crested uniform that can only be bought in one or two local retailers there are other ways that you can save money on your school uniform.

#8. Check if your school offers second hand uniforms for sale, either from other parents or lost and found or at the yard sale.

#9. Avail of any 3 for 2 offers on school uniform items and buy 2 that can be used right away and a larger size for use later in the year.

#10. Check out local charity shops, you will often find school blazers, ties and other school items for sale.

#11. Most specialist retailers will offer early purchase discounts to save on the back to school rush in August. Avail of these just before they end and remember you usually have a 28 day exchange policy, which you can avail of if your child has a growth spurt over the break.

#12. Check with your school whether you can buy the crest and add it to a generic school uniform.

#13. See if the previous year’s uniform still fits or if the hems can be let down.

#14. Purchase the crested items only from the local schoolwear specialist and then get generic items such as shirts, polo shirts, skirts etc.from department stores or online. M&S offer a large selection of uniform items for sale in-store and online.

#15. Ask friends if they have any secondhand uniforms from older children. You could use social media to do this.

Schoolwear at M&S


At M&S, you’ll find innovative new sizes and fits including Plus fit (6cm wider in the body), Slim fit (4cm narrower in the body), as well as shorter and longer lengths on trousers and skirts. And, with their usual clever design features like adjustable cuffs and water-repellent, non-iron fabrics, you’ll find everything you need at M&S online and in store to make school shopping a cinch this year!

School Footwear

save money on back to school shoes

Many schools have a strict policy on school footwear, preferring children to all wear a single colour or style and only allowing trainers to be worn on PE days. Depending on the climate where you live, I have found that my children only wear school shoes for a few short weeks before donning boots, which they wear until April/May time. So my advice on how to save money on back to school footwear would be:

#16. Unless you are sure your child will wear them for the first couple of terms, buy less expensive school shoes and invest in winter boots that will last.

#17. Look out for buy one get one half price offers at sports shops and specialist shops.

#18. Check out department and discount stores for end of line offers.

#19. Invest in one good pair of shoes for school that are only worn for school!

#20. Do some online research if you are sure you have the correct size.

School Bags

Save money on back to school bags

Investing in a good quality schoolbag means you may get more than one year out of it. However, styles do change, especially for younger children who want the latest character schoolbag,  so my tips on ways to save money on schoolbags include:

#21. Check if last year’s bag is still ok. If you have invested in a good quality schoolbag, it may be.

#22. Buy in the sales the previous year. Unlike uniforms, shoes and books, your child will not grow out of their school bag.

#23. Check your local sports or discount store and online for offers such as buy one get one free.  A good sports rucksack can make a great schoolbag.

#24. Encourage your child to only bring home the books they need each night. Not only will this save on wear and tear on the schoolbag, but more importantly, it will save your child needlessly carrying weighty books to and from school daily.

#25. If you have not yet found the perfect school bag, check out our top picks for this coming school year.

Top Tip: Schoolbags can be heavy, so do ensure that yours are the right fit for your child’s height and shape. 

School Stationery

School Supplies

To save money on back to school stationery, I would advise buying in bulk. Items such as copies will generally remain the same year after year, so you can put away any unused copies for use next time. Other cost saving measures include:

#26. Check out your local discount store or supermarket for bundles of copies, notebooks, pens, pencils, glue sticks, folders colours etc. It is a much cheaper way to purchase these items.

#27. Stock up during the year. As you do your weekly grocery shop add in items of stationery to spread the cost over the year.

#28. Label everything as many children will have the same rulers, pens etc.

#29. Go through your child’s pencil case from the previous year and see if there are any items that can be reused.

Lunch Boxes

Car Journey Lunch Box Hacks

Before splashing out on a new lunch box or lunch bag check if the one from last year is still good. It may just require a good scrub with disinfectant.

#30. If not be sure to shop around. Discount stores or grocery and department stores usually have a good selection.

#31. While on holidays, check if you can get unique lunch boxes that will be easy to identify.

#32. Be sure to purchase a good quality water bottle than can be refilled rather than splashing out on bottled water each week.

#33. Once the kids get back to school, try to be organised by doing a bulk shop at the weekend and making lunch each day for the kids, and yourself! This will not only save you money but offers a healthy alternative to pre-prepared lunches.

#34. Buy fruit that is in season to add to lunch boxes as it will be less expensive than out  of season alternatives.

Back to School Travel

save on back to school walking

Travel to and from school can become costly as fuel prices vary throughout the year.

#35. Check if your child is eligible for a school bus or, if they are older, can get a travel pass and take public transport.

#36. If you have to drive, try and car pool with other parents who live locally. This not only saves time and money, but is better for the environment too.

#37. If your school is nearby consider cycling, walking or taking a scooter to school.

#38. Park and Stride is also encouraged in many schools. This cuts down on the amount of time spent in the car and helps wake everyone up in the morning!

After School Activities

save money on back to school after school activities

When it comes to after school activities, my advice would be ‘try before you buy’.

#39. Children often only want to attend because ‘everyone else is going’ and may not like the class once they have been signed up to it. Most class providers will offer a taster session before you have to pay for the term.

#40. If your child’s after school activity involves specialist equipment, check with the club/class provider, if they have spare equipment for the first few weeks. If not, try and borrow from a friend or buy second hand equipment until you are sure your child is going to continue with the activity.

#41. Check whether you can pay weekly or per term rather than having to pay an annual fee up front.

#42. Learn about fees that may occur during the year. Entry fees for competitions or galas can add up, making the actual price of the activity grow significantly.

#43. Use vouchers and discount codes when you see them and if you need to exchange an item, you usually get a 28 day window in which to do so.

#44. Finally try and put a little bit away each week to save towards the annual back to school costs.

Do you have any good ways to save money on back to school that we have not mentioned? Please share them in the comments box below. 

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