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Dress for Less: How to Save on School Uniforms

Aug. 10, 2015
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If you’re a student shopping for a school uniform — or if you’re part of the 28% of parents surveyed by the National Retail Federation who said your child will be wearing a school uniform this year —  follow these strategies to cut down your costs on this season’s preppy new clothes.

Shop sales

You’ve seen the big red sale signs filling store windows for weeks now. We all know that there are back-to-school retail sales for office supplies, dorm room furniture, backpacks, tech essentials and a host of other school essentials. But there are also store sales specific to school uniforms.

Check for discounts on uniforms from big-name retailers and department stores. At Old Navy, for example, school uniform apparel for girls starts at just $4. At Target, shoppers can buy polos for $5 and bottoms for $10, plus take advantage of savings of 25% on other select uniform styles.

Buy used

To guarantee you’ll get a good price (even in the absence of sale events), opt for used clothes. You can find used uniforms at secondhand stores and even eBay. Additionally, keep an eye out for uniform exchange events. Your child’s school may host such a day at the beginning of the school year to give you the opportunity to sell, buy or trade clothes.


Unlike books, you don’t need to have a new school uniform each year. If your son or daughter still has tops or bottoms left over from last year, see if they’re in good enough condition to be worn again for another year. Similarly, be sure to keep any new items you buy in good condition so they’ll be able to last for a while.

If you don’t have any old uniforms at home, try asking a friend or neighbor if they do. You’ll likely find that older students who have already graduated may be looking to free up their closet space and unload their supply of school wears.

Be strategic about sizing

If you know your child will be wearing school uniforms for years to come, you may want to consider buying a slightly larger size — one your child can grow into and continue to wear both now and well into the future.

Another thing to keep in mind: If you buy moderately now, you can always fill in with additional articles of clothing later as needed.

Set a budget

No, we don’t mean just setting a budget for how much you’re willing to spend (although that’s important, too). You should also set an allowance for how many uniforms (pairs of pants, shirts, skirts, etc.) that you’ll need.

Try to be realistic. For example, if you do laundry midweek, you may not need to buy a different shirt for each day of the school week. This can cut down on the amount of items you need to purchase.

Use coupons

Before you make any school uniform purchases, always conduct a quick search to see if you can find any relevant coupons or coupon codes. If you know ahead of time which retailer you’ll be buying uniforms from, try signing up for their email mailing list so you’ll get any promotions sent directly to your inbox as soon as they’re announced.

Use these deal-finding strategies as a way to set your child apart this school year. Wearing a uniform may make it difficult to stand out fashion-wise from the rest of the school, but shopping smart can save your family from spending as much as everyone else.


More back-to-school shopping tips:


Courtney Jespersen is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: [email protected]. Twitter: @courtneynerd.

Image via iStock.