This is the first of two articles on helping you to make the budget stretch further to kit out your kids for school.

There’s no way around it, school uniform is expensive. It’s not just the traditional dress/trousers/skirts and polo shirts; it’s also the cardigans and jumpers which have to have the school logo on and of course, the shoes.

We’ve put together a host of ideas and sources to give you the financial edge on getting your kids kitted out.

Supermarket sweep

Throughout the year the big supermarkets regularly have end of season mark downs along with 25% off deals, which usually coincide with the school half terms and main holidays.  Both of these can also be stacked for double discount opportunities.  Take advantage of the half price school offers, stack them with the further 25% off and you’ll be picking up pieces from as little as £2.

Don’t forget the added bonus of loyalty points, many of the top four (Tesco, Sainsburys, Morrisons and Asda) allow you to double up your points to spend on clothing at key times of the year especially before Christmas and around the Summer holidays.  Even without double up, a £2.50 voucher to use on top of the sale and the possible 25% off makes for serious bargains.

Buying in bulk to dress your kids for the next few years can be a good move.  Their school colours won’t change, so be sure to grab the next size or even sizes up in polos, dresses and trousers.  Always try the clothes on your child, if it fits well and the next size is in the sale, buy both.

If you’re worried about storage, vacuum pack bags are essential.  Label the bags with what’s included; name of child, size/age, etc. Pack each year’s uniform in one bag and compress it to almost nothing, then simply store under the bed or in the loft until needed.  If you think you’ll forget and end up buying more of the same size, leave a note on your calendar at the beginning of the next year or add a note to your phone’s diary reminding you what you bought and where you’ve put it.

Shoes

It can be tempting to boycott the traditional big hitters like Clarks or Kickers and opt for a cheaper non-leather alternative, but if there’s one thing you should invest in, it’s your child’s shoes.  They’ll be wearing them every day for six hours a day, putting them in sweaty plastic shoes won’t do their feet any good and you’ll end up having to replace them far more often than a pair of sturdily built and tested branded leather shoes.

However, at £40 plus a pair, it can be a sizeable chunk of your child benefit or school budget.  There are ways to cut this cost almost in half though.

The big name shoes retails like Clarks have outlets up and down the country selling kids shoes for half price or less.  It may mean having to travel. but if you can kit all the kids out in half price school shoes plus half price trainers for PE and a pair of out of school shoes for less than what you’d pay for one full price on the high street, it’s worth it.

You can also watch the sales.  School shoes do go in the sale so it’s worth keeping a track of when the sales start and make sure you check on the first day as some sizes sell out quickly.  Many stores allow you to order or reserve online so take advantage of this.

Catalogues are also a great way to save money with many offering welcome 20% off offers.  Just be sure to pay the balance in full and cancel the account to avoid paying interest or being temped into making additional purchases.

Never pay full price

There are new discount sites and apps popping up all the time.  From those offering cashback to voucher codes and special offers, it’s vital you check these sites before completing your purchase online or instore.

Almost all online retailers can be purchased at via https://www.topcashback.co.uk/ allowing you to earn a varying level cashback on all the items you buy. This can be worth a substantial amount over the year when you add up a full uniform, shoes, PE kit and lunch and school bags.

It’s also worth checking sites like Vouchercodes for free delivery offers, 20% off vouchers and details of the forthcoming sales. Sites like HotDeals also have forums where members will share their bargain finds, offers and voucher codes.

It’s never going to be cheap to kit your kids out for school, but if you’re willing to invest a little research time you can find some great deals that will save you a lot of money.