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School uniforms take the hassle out of finding apparel for your child, and also help end wardrobe battles among students. But school uniforms aren't always cheap. According to data from the Statistic Brain Research Institute, school uniforms cost parents around $249 each year. Luckily, there are several ways to curb costs.
Here, we go over the most common school uniform items and offer tips to help you save.
Before you hit the stores, contact the school to find out exactly what your child will need — assuming the school hasn't provided a list of required pieces already. The most common items include the following:
Boys: Solid-colored polos (some schools require them to be monogrammed with a logo), shorts, pants, dress socks, blazers, neckties, white dress shirts
Girls: Dresses, solid-colored polos, skirts, shorts, pants, trouser or knee socks
You may not have control over the price point (or volume) of uniforms your student needs, but setting a budget helps keep your wallet in check. It also helps you focus on what your child needs right away, and what can wait until you have more funds available.
Ask your child's school about uniform exchange programs. By participating, you'll get the opportunity to swap out pieces your child has outgrown. Alternatively, you can buy them outright at a discounted price. If a program is not available, there's a chance the school hosts events throughout the year.
Have you considered consignment or thrift shops? You may be able to find gently used uniforms there in your child's size. And it doesn't hurt to call ahead to ask about their uniform inventory, so you can avoid making a fruitless trip.
Maybe you prefer to shop for uniforms from the comforts of your home. If so, look beyond Amazon and eBay. You can also find great deals online from your favorite clothing retailers. Just be sure to take advantage of online discounts and special offers, like free shipping.
To find out when sales are taking place, pay attention to the weekly circulars. Don't forget to subscribe to stores' email lists, and look out for coupons. And it doesn't hurt to follow your favorite retailers on social media to be in the know about back-to-school sales.
Around late July and early August, some discount retailers receive uniform pieces. Be sure to check out the uniform selection available from Ross, Marshalls, and T.J.Maxx. The price points will be much lower than what's available at most department stores.
Did you buy uniform pieces last year that were a tad bit large? Or maybe you purchased one too many tops, bottoms, or socks that your student never got around to wearing? Either way, it won't hurt to take a peek in your kid's closet. It's a possibility that you'll have to do very little — if any — uniform shopping.
If you're lucky enough to find uniforms at a deep discount, consider buying in bulk. The trick is to buy multiple sizes of each piece so your student will have what they need as they grow. While you may not save a ton right away, your wallet will thank you over time.
Once the back-to-school rush has died down, you can expect markdowns on school uniforms. Some retailers may offer discounts of up to 75% to clear the racks for other apparel.
You don't have to buy the most expensive uniform items on the rack. But poorly crafted pieces probably won't hold up over time. And once the threads start to unravel, buttons pop off, or zippers jam, you'll have to pay a seamstress to sort it all out — or simply buy new clothes.
Having trouble affording uniforms? Check with your child's school to learn more about your options. You may qualify for help through uniform donation programs in your local area.
Readers, have you found any great ways to save on school uniforms? If so, please share them with us in the comments below.