A Budget Guide To Buying School Clothes

School uniforms can cost parents a lot of money. Not only are kids prone to growth spurts, they can also lose items easily and get clothing damaged leading to extra replacement costs. Fortunately, there are a lot of tricks that can save you money when shopping for a school uniform.

Here are just a few tricks every parent shopping on a budget needs to know.

Time it right

There are certain times of the year when clothing is a lot more expensive. Summer happens to be the most popular time for shopping for new school clothes and there is a lot of back to school deals worth taking advantage of, however, compared to other times of the year this can often be a fairly expensive time to buy school supplies. You’re much better shopping for clothes mid-term when the demand is lowest – you can sometimes find great promotions during these times.

Make use of multi-pack promotions

It’s worth bulk buying certain items like socks and shirts. You can find great deals on cheap packs of socks and shirts. The disadvantage is that these items of clothing may not always be the best quality, so you could end up getting less use out of them. However, the fact that you’re buying so many at once means that you’ll always have spares.

Shop for second-hand clothes

You can often buy cheap school clothes by opting second-hand rather than brand new. Some school uniform shops may have sections for discounted used clothes. Charity shops can also be a great place to look for second-hand school clothes. Many of these clothes will be in good condition – a parent may simply be selling them because their child has grown out of them. You can also buy second-hand school clothes online. It’s worth using local selling sites where you can collect these items rather than paying extra for delivery.

Swap with other parents

Clothes swap events are great opportunities to save money on school clothes. It could be worth arranging one of these events with other parents – this could allow you to all swap clothing with one another, allowing to get school clothing for free. Talk to your school’s parent committee as they may be able to send out a newsletter or advertise the event on the school site.

Invest in name labels for clothing

It could be worth also buying labels for your kids’ clothing. If a cardigan or sweater gets lost, it will be easily identifiable due to the name on the label. This could save you money in having to buy clothing replacements for lost clothing. School name labels can be bought online. There are labels which can be sewn on and there are labels that can be ironed on – you can choose which one if more convenient for you. Even using a permanent marker to put initials on the label could be valuable.

Know when to repair and when to replace

When clothing is damaged, many parents opt for the lazy option of buying new clothes. But there are times when you can save money by picking up a needle and thread and making some DIY repairs. Some rips may be too large for this, but the majority are likely to be easily fixable. Even if you’re not a dad hand at sewing, you may have a friend that you can call upon. You should also think twice about replacing clothing simply due to stains. White shirts and tights may easily get discoloured from mud and grass stains. Some of this may not come out in a regular wash, however, you may be able to invest in a high quality stain remover to get rid of these marks. Talk to fellow parents to get recommendations on the best stain removers and use online reviews as a guide.

Keep clothing as hand-me-downs

If you’ve got other younger kids who will be going through the same school, make sure to cling onto the clothes that they could use when they eventually reach that age. This is particularly the case with clothes that are still in good condition.

Do you have any tips to share on making the most of school uniform?

Are Clarks Shoes Right For Letting Girls Be Girls?

This week’s ‘outrage’ has been caused by shoe manufacturer and retailer Clarks’ effrontery.  They have designed a range of shoes for girls which look, well, feminine and called them names such as “Dolly Babe” rather than the manly, “Leader” range for boys.

gold high heeled shoes - motherdistracted.co.uk

Would wearing these make you less powerful?

Is this insidious sexism, a sneaky cultural attempt to brainwash our daughters into accepting a lesser role in society? Shouldn’t we be putting them in Dr. Martens at 2 and teaching them to stomp their way into power?

To be frank, my issues with Clarks are more to do with the longevity of the shoe and the price, rather than the frothy design names.

It’s not as if Clarks is the only manufacturer of school shoes on the planet.  You can find them in most major supermarkets and department stores.

What Clarks do well is to measure and fit the shoe and I suspect this is the reason why many parents still visit them – even if it’s just to get their kids’ feet correctly sized.

I’d also have less problem accepting this feminist outrage if it were not for the fact that Jimmy Shoo, Manolo Blahnik, Dior et al seem to be rather light on the sturdier styles.  You couldn’t really kick a football around a playground in them, could you?

So where is the line drawn.  Do we say no to girly styles and names whilst our daughters are growing up and then just accept they will discover shoes with heels, glitter, feathers, beading and general frou-frou?

Perhaps the real issue here is simply one of choice.  All Clarks really needs to do is add a couple of sturdier styles to its range.

If we believe that the way we are dressing our kids is akin to programming them into the evil ways of girliness, I’d suggest that this belief is wrong.

Do the world’s most powerful women all wear flat shoes?

Where is Ariana Huffington’s discourse on the impact of footwear on a woman’s ability to achieve?

The most useful thing we could teach our daughters is to choose what makes them happy without giving a stuff about the name of the shoe.

And as parents if we object to feminine names, we always have the option to vote with our feet.

Back To School Through The Decades With M&S

Back to school week used to be a magical time when I was growing up. I was born in 1964 so my formative school years were in the 70’s and early 80’s through Harold Wilson’s Labour Government and the Miners’ Strike and Thatcher’s Britain from 1979 onwards. And yes, I can remember the long hot summer of 1976!

Can you tell my mum cut my fringe?  Me circa 1974

In my Primary years, we still had morning milk in bottles with silver foil caps and a tuck shop which sold Wagon Wheels which were the size of your head and Crème Eggs that took more than 3 bites to eat them. Crisps used to cost 2d. Yes, I am that old, although I have now recovered from decimalisation. I still prefer my temperatures in Fahrenheit though.

Later, my sister and I attended our local comprehensive, St. Cyres, in Penarth and had to wear a school uniform comprising a pleated skirt, white blouse, black jumper and a black and white school tie. In those days school uniform was stocked in one or two local shops and you had to get in quick or there was nothing left.

Hard at work!

The uniform seemed to be stocked in two sizes – either Harry Potter size or Hagrid Rubeus size and was made in a material so warm and heavy you could probably survive a week in an Everest base camp wearing it.

Nope – still can’t sight read!

Our school shoes had to have heels no more than 2.5 inches high and if your hair touched your shirt collar, you had to wear it up – including the boys. Our headmistress was an absolute stickler for rules and would carry a tape measure to check your heel height. If you failed the test you were sent home. No ifs, no buts. And you could forget jewellery (other than plain gold studs or hoops) or make-up. I suspect if our headmistress had seen a tattoo she would have had a fit of the vapours.

Mum is still cutting my fringe circa 1981

Then there was the excitement of buying a new pencil case and one of those Helix Mathematical Kits which contained a compass and a protractor. In those days, pencils could be bought actually sharpened – there wasn’t so much concern about health and safety then.

The first week of term would see the giving out of fresh new writing books and textbooks which we would be instructed to go home and cover in sticky-backed plastic (much loved from watching Blue Peter).

Everything was new and as fresh as the crisp autumnal air. We’d wear our new school winter coats even in the Indian Summer, cooking nicely on the school bus.

Now, 30 years on and Caitlin and Ieuan are experiencing both the joy of the long summer holiday and the excitement of returning to start a new school year and ‘back to school’ seems to have become a major event.

If you ask any of the already frazzled parents trying to entertain their brood with activities not involving Pokemon, or an ‘I’ anything, this can only be a good thing.

For a start, high-quality school uniform is readily available and comes in sizes to fit every child and you can even still buy Helix Mathematical sets. There are backpacks rather than the old fashioned satchels and more coloured and scented stationery than you can woggle a ruler at.

I think it’s a good thing to encourage kids to be excited about going back to school. It is, after all, where they will spend a sizeable percentage of their time and it makes sense to get them into a mindset of looking forward to learning.

This summer, M&S will be celebrating over a century of helping parents get their kids ready to go back to school so to give Caitlin and Ieuan an idea of what school was like way back then, we took them to the St. Fagans National History Museum just outside Cardiff to see Maestir School which is set up as it was in 1900.

Incidentally the National History Museum at St. Fagans is well worth a visit and features many historic buildings painstakingly resurrected for the public to learn about many aspects of Welsh life through the decades.

Maestir School was a small country school built in 1880 which had just one classroom. It was built from shale-stone taken from the local quarries and had a slate roof using slate from North Wales. The yard at the back was segregated to keep boys and girls apart.

Pupils of all ages – from 5 to 14 – would have been taught in the same classroom and there are desks in a variety of sizes to accommodate them. A far cry from the classroom set up we have today, although I can remember wooden, lidded desks in the early days at comprehensive. I think some of them are still there, together with the graffiti and chewing gum that was stuck underneath to hide it from the teacher.

Caitlin is about to start Year 4 and Ieuan Year 3 and they are both ready for the challenge. Young minds need feeding and near-constant stimulation.

Anything we can do to help create the best learning environment and to get the kids into the right mind-set is well worth the investment in my (text) book.

But you know things haven’t changed that much since my sister and I walked to school.  There may be more traffic on the roads and more technology to grapple with but our kids are learning broadly what we did and, hopefully, having just as much fun.

You can share your school memories with M&S on social media using #MySchoolYears.  Bet you didn’t have a fringe as good as mine!

*School uniform courtesy of M&S.

Caitlin wears:-

Girls embroidered pinafore in grey – £12 (T761728) 
Girls cotton rich cardigan in navy – £10 (T761339)
Quilted belted coat navy – £27 (T747431J)

Ieuan wears:-

Boys Plus Fit Pleat Front Adjustable Waist Supercrease Trousers in grey – £10 (T764628P)
Outstanding value unisex pure cotton jumper in navy – £7 (T763908) 
Padded parka in black  – £35 (T879299Y)

Let’s Keep It (School) Uniform

Do you think it’s important to wear school uniform?

Having just spent an arm and a leg on two sets of school uniform and school shoes, I was recently talking to a mum who said that she started the term off with her boys wearing school uniform but as the term progressed towards the holidays, she allowed them to go in a mix of uniform and casual wear.

She couldn’t, she said, see the point in making them wear something they didn’t want to.

Whilst I completely understand the pressures of budgeting for school uniform, personally, I think that if a school requests that a uniform is worn, it is actually in the interest of pupils, parents and teachers that the kids wear it.

Why?  Uniform is a great leveller.  It removes status symbols and creates an equality, at least in appearance.

It is valuable in teaching kids that fitting in and adhering to rules and regulations will be a part of their life from now on.

Grating as it is to have to buy clothing which looks like it was made for some utilitarian army with precious little interest in colour, fit or durability, in general kids look smarter and, as psychologists tell us, that should help performance.

Nobody can deny that buying school uniform can add up to a significant outlay, but these days you can buy supermarket basics which do the job and a reasonable cost. And in fact, these days you can find some pretty stylish and durable school garments.

I had to wear a uniform from junior school (the 1970’s) until the end of comprehensive schooling in 1982.

I had a uniform for Brownies (which Club, I’m afraid I hated) and a uniform for ballet (hair HAD to be in a netted bun).

Then for most of my working life so far, I’ve arguably had a ‘corporate uniform’ – suit, blouse, heels, lipstick, bag. I still struggle with my ‘mummy’ uniform – but that subject probably requires a separate post!

When you think about it, there aren’t that many areas of life where there isn’t some dress code or other, either prescribed or implied.

And anyway, if you don’t have some degree of conformity, you’ve not got much to rebel against when you hit your teens, have you?

Are you for, or against school uniform?