School uniform buying guide: 6 tips to save time & money
It used to be that only children who went to private or parochial school wore school uniforms.
But these days, more and more public schools are requiring kids to wear school uniforms.
The perks are many: Some say that it levels the playing field for children. In other words, the children who can’t afford pricey clothing don’t stand out, as truly expensive clothing is not allowed.
Of course, the other side of the coin, one often cited by students, is that it stunts creativity. But savvy teens know that most schools allow their students to add a bit of a personal touch, whether that’s jewelry or a creative pair of socks.
The fact is that like them or not, for kids school uniforms are becoming more common.
Take a few money- and time-saving tips before the hectic back-to-school season really hits. Our biggest tip: Shop the merchants we mention and get Cash Back from ShopAtHome.com.
1. Buy lightly at the school store:
If it’s allowed, do your own shopping and avoid the uniforms sold at the school. In some cases, you might have to buy the tops at the school’s store, which are likely emblazoned with the school’s name (school spirit, anyone?). But many schools at least allow parents to shop for skirts, uniform pants and jumpers.
2. Do they really need it?
Take that dark blue cardigan with the school emblem stitched on. Have you ever seen your son wear a cardigan before? If the answer is no, hold off on buying the item. But if your son or daughter really does wear cardigans in the colder months, that’s a clothing item you shouldn’t skimp on. If it’s allowed by the school, look for items like that at a store like Sears, which has a great school uniform selection. At Sears, we found an At Home by French Toast V-neck Cardigan on sale for $25.60.. And remember – if you’re not sure they’ll wear it, hold off until the temperatures turn.
3. Color choices:
Many schools allow kids to choose from a few colors, especially in items like blouses or polo shirts. We all know that red, white and blue rule is tops in most schools’ spectrum, as are black or khaki pants or skirts. And herein lies the problem. Again, you’ll want to hold off on buying all red shirts, because we’re betting that when your son heads into his freshman year and discovers blue is the color of choice, you’ll have your hands full of nearly-new red Polo shirts at the end of the year. Now, we’re not saying put off the shopping until week two of school. We’re just suggesting you buy a couple from each of the acceptable color categories. And if you think that will price you out, check out Old Navy’s deals on Polos. When we shopped for a boys pique uniform shirt, we found them in an array of colors, on sale for $5, sizes 5 to 18. At those prices, you can afford to give them to a friend or relative who adores red.
4. One-stop shopping for the busy parent:
If you’re not willing to wander through shops, or even pick about various sites, look for a site that will have most everything you need. Some schools actually work with French Toast, and get a bit of money back on purchases. French Toast is America’s leading brand of school uniform. Their styles can be found at area stores, but go to the company’s website to get everything you need for kids from toddlers to teens. Go to frenchtoast.com and check out the styles. We were interested in the low prices, the clearance items, and the great money-back guarantee. Shipping is free with a purchase of $100 or more. And even the most frugal parents reach that limit easily.
5. Buy a bit big and a lot strong:
Unless you know your teen has finished growing, consider the mighty growth chart. Right around grade 7, a child can move up a size just in the four or five days it takes to process and ship an order. We swear we’ve seen boys creep up a half inch in a day! No worries if you’re shopping at Land’s End, which has a great return policy. What’s more, it’s another all-in-one place to shop. Right down to the jacket for your young man. All clothes are guaranteed to stand up to a rough and tumble school year. We love Land’s End’s “Iron Knee” school uniform pants in khaki or blue. That knee area is made with a little extra fabric, to ensure fun and games don’t ruin the pants.
6. Add a bit of whimsy:
Tired of hearing the word “boring?” Hey, let those kids show their styles in the purses and backpacks they wear, or in a funky pair of socks. We love L.L. Bean for those items. Those are purchases you don’t want to skimp on. L.L. Bean is beloved for their sturdy school backpacks, and it’s yet another place with a great guarantee. A few other things to shop for at L.L. Bean to help your child make a statement: Lunch boxes and socks. We liked the Discovery Lunch Boxes ($14.99-$19.99, llbean.com), because we think every child should have a shark, a dinosaur, a butterfly or a dolphin swimming, flitting or stomping around on that box.