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Where to Buy Cheap School Uniforms for Kids and Save Money

By Melissa Batai

schoolboys uniformsThe majority of private school students need to wear uniforms everyday when attending classes. In recent years, in part to combat gang affiliations and gang violence, some public schools have also instituted uniform policies.

There are pros and cons of school uniforms, but as a parent, there are always costs associated with back to school clothes shopping.

You can mitigate the extra expense of uniforms with these tips.

Buying Used School Uniforms

Explore purchasing used uniforms before you shop for new ones. Parents can save hundreds of dollars each year when they buy used uniforms. You can find used uniforms from a variety of sources:

1. See If Your School Has a Uniform Exchange
Many schools ask parents to donate the uniforms their children have outgrown to the school. Then, parents can take the size that their child currently needs from the swap pile for free. This strategy helps families obtain uniforms on a tight budget. The uniforms won’t look brand new, but after two weeks, most clothes no longer look brand new anyway, as children christen them with food stains, and pen and pencil marks.

You probably can’t get all of your child’s uniforms from a clothing swap, but it is definitely a good place to start. We did this last year for my son, and found four gently used short-sleeve shirts, and one long-sleeve shirt in good condition for free.

2. Check Craigslist
If your school requires a basic uniform, like navy blue pants and blue knit polo shirts, make sure to check Craigslist for new and used uniforms beginning in July and August. If you begin checking Craigslist in early July and then check every other day or so to look for new listings, you should find what you need. Uniforms tend to sell quickly, so if you see uniforms in the size and color you need, contact the seller as quickly as possible.

3. Visit a Thrift Store
If you know that a school in your area requires uniforms, check the local thrift shop to look for used uniforms. If you live in or near a large city with a large student population wearing uniforms, you should find a good selection at these thrift stores.

4. Look for Used Uniforms Online
A number of different websites now cater to families who need used school uniforms. Websites like MyUniformExchange.com and SchoolUniformResale.com provide online clothing swaps for budget-conscious families.

classroom school uniforms

Buying New School Uniforms

Sometimes, you don’t have the option of buying used uniforms. If you must buy new uniforms, you can still save money with these tips:

1. Buy the Minimum
Don’t buy more than you need. For example, my son’s school requires that students wear a shirt with an embroidered school logo. As a result, I can’t buy these shirts on Craigslist or at a department store on sale. Unfortunately, his school uniform exchange did not have his size available, so I couldn’t find any free shirts for him to use for the school year. I had to buy new uniforms through the school, but to reduce costs significantly, I bought the minimum amount of shirts that he needed for the school year. If he wears out his uniform clothing, we can always buy more later on.

2. Look for Sales at Local Department Stores
Many stores such as JC Penney, Kmart, Walmart, Sears, and Target sell tops and bottoms that fit many schools’ more generic uniform requirements. Take advantage of their sales to purchase your uniforms at lower prices. Last year, JC Penney had a coupon for $10 off an online clothing purchase. I bought two uniform shirts for my son when he attended a different school, essentially getting one of them for free. Stores often run a buy-one-get-one special on uniform pants. Use these sales to stock up on new uniforms.

3. Wait for the Uniform Store to Have a Sale
Many schools are associated with a specific uniform store, and that store often has sales. Call the store and find out when they typically have discounts and promotions. You can buy the minimum you need before school begins, and then wait to buy the rest until the first sale, usually in October. You could save 10-20% off on uniforms, depending on the sale.

4. Buy Pants at a Store with a Guarantee
Many stores such as Sears and Lands’ End offer a guarantee that if the clothing rips or tears before the child outgrows it, they will replace it free of charge. Sears specifically states on their website, “As a Kidvantage member, if your kid’s clothes or kid’s shoes wear out before they outgrow them, Sears will replace them with an identical item or similar item of equal value in the same size.” Make it a point to buy from a store that offers this guarantee. You may pay a bit more for the clothing upfront, but you could easily recoup the money during the school year.

5. Check Amazon
Amazon has a school uniform section, and as the back to school date nears, they often offer good sales. If you use Swagbucks, an online search engine that lets you earn points for searching, you can redeem some of your Swagbucks for Amazon gift cards to apply to your uniform purchase, and get an even deeper discount on the sale uniforms. Best of all, you don’t need to leave your home!

6. Buy Uniforms Online
Many websites provide discount uniforms for rock-bottom prices. Search online for uniforms, and visit websites like The Children’s Wear Outlet and All Seasons Uniforms to find deeply discounted uniforms online.

Final Word

School uniform policies have many benefits. Wearing uniforms eliminates a lot of the stress of the morning rush. You don’t have to argue over what kids will wear, and you don’t have to watch them put on four different outfits before they finally decide on the perfect one.

For parents used to finding good deals on stylish kids’ clothing, shopping for school uniforms can lead to sticker shock. You have fewer opportunities to save money on uniforms, when compared to ordinary kids’ clothes. Hopefully using these strategies helps lower your overall expenditure.

Do your kids wear school uniforms? How do you save when shopping for them?

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Melissa Batai
Melissa is a former college instructor who recently quit her job to be a stay home mom with her three children ages 7, 2 and 1. She is a personal finance writer for several online publications, and she blogs at her own blog, Mom's Plans, where she documents her family's journey to live a fulfilling life on less and Dining Out Challenge, where the motto is, "Never pay full price to dine out again." She enjoys cooking, writing, reading, and watching movies.

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