How to Save Money on School Uniforms

Uniform shopping doesn’t have to be expensive. Learn how to get school uniforms for cheap with these simple and effective tips. 

Last year, my son started Kindergarten at our Lutheran grade school. They have a school uniform policy which I greatly appreciate. However, as a frugal mom who was new to the uniform scene, I was determined to figure out how to buy school uniforms for cheap. I wanted quality but I also didn’t want to pay full retail for our uniforms. It was a bit of trial and error last year as I had to figure out what brands and sizes fit my son the best, but this year? Uniform shopping is much easier – and I have already saved so much money on uniforms!

Even when buying uniforms for cheap, you don’t have to sacrifice quality. It is okay to spend a bit more for a brand that is higher quality and will last longer. You can still find deals on those brands and uniform items. Even the most expensive uniform brands run sales and deals.

I am able to buy all of my sons’ school uniforms for under $100. It still seems like a lot if you buy it at once, so I tend to divide it up by shopping throughout the year. This also saves me a lot of stress come August each year! For example, 10 polos ($3 each), 4 shorts ($7 each), 5 pants ($6 each) = $88. It can be even cheaper when your polos fit for 2 years or other items are worn more than one year. If you buy uniforms cheaper by shopping thrift stores or consignment shops, your costs may be even lower!

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Here are my 5 tricks to buy school uniforms for cheap.

These tips may seem common sense to some but maybe there is a new idea or two for how you can save money on uniforms. If you are new to the uniform shopping scene, I hope this list helps you save money on uniforms from the beginning. This is how I save money on our school uniforms. 

1. Know your uniform policy. 

For our school, students can wear any brand of polos (no embellishments) in navy, yellow, white, grey or maroon. Pants have to be navy, black or khaki and have the straight uniform pocket style in the back of pants or shorts. Skirts and rompers are allowed for girls. Each student has to have one embroidered school logo polo from Lands End but the rest of our uniforms can be bought elsewhere.

Our uniform policy is stricter than some but not as strict as others. Knowing the policy is important because it doesn’t do you any good to find a good deal, only to realize it was on the wrong color polo or the wrong style of pants. Know your uniform policy so you don’t waste money buying items your child can’t wear. 

It’s also important to figure out exactly how many uniforms you need for your child. Do you want to go a whole week without having to do laundry for clean uniforms or will you wash things in the middle of every week? Can your child wear pants or shorts two times in a row or do you need 5 pairs of bottoms for each week? I learned to buy only one white polo and save it for those picture opportunities because white stains easily. As for long sleeve polos, my son gets hot easily so I only buy a couple of those for the coldest weeks in winter. Can you buy in a slightly bigger size so that things can be worn for 2 years? Many polos will work for 2 years, unless your child goes through a big growth spurt…which definitely happens!

My uniform shopping list looks like this. 5-10 short sleeve polos. 3-5 long sleeve polos. 4-5 pairs of shorts. 4-5 pairs of pants. 1 embroidered logo polo. The lower number is my absolute minimum, and if I find a great deal, I am willing to buy to the higher number.

Knowing exactly how many uniform pieces you need keeps you from overspending on unnecessary pieces.  

2. Shop early and buy ahead.

This is probably the easiest and most important way to save money. We know that every August, our kids will need new uniforms so plan ahead by shopping early! In fact, the best way to save money is to shop year round for uniforms. Keep an eye open for sales on uniforms throughout the year and you will be surprised what you find.

I have bought many polos on markdown in September as the stores phased out their uniform displays. If I find polos for $3 or less (my best price point), I snatch them up! Every time I was at the store, I wandered by the kids area and was surprised to find uniforms 3 or 4 months throughout the year, marked down substantially on close out. Clearance markdowns are a great way to save on uniforms!

Another trick is to shop consignment stores early in the season. When August arrives, all the uniforms will be picked over. In February? You will have a much better chance of finding uniforms. Our local consignment store sorts clothes by colors and size so I quickly browse the appropriate colors every time I am in the store to see what I find. Sometimes, we use it right away and other times I put it away for later.

If you have multiple children in uniforms, I hope it goes without saying to save the uniforms for the next child to wear as hand-me-downs.

One of the other ways to save is to buy uniforms in the next size – before you need them. If you find a good deal, consider buying it in the current size and next size as well. This saves you money and time, as you will be prepared for uniform shopping next year. That’s what I did throughout the year so that when this year rolled around, I already had all of the polos Nathan needed in the next size up.

If your school has a uniform resale shop, be sure to shop there and see what deals you can find – for this year and next. And feel free to pass on uniforms your kids won’t wear again to the sale or to friends who can use them.

3. Shop online and shop through Rakuten.

With 4 little ones (1st grade and under), shopping online is much easier than taking everyone into the stores. Of course, we still have to venture out for new shoes and school supplies, but if I can easily accomplish most of my uniform shopping from home? I will happily do so – especially since shopping online saves me time and money.

One of the easiest ways to save money online is to use Rakuten. I’ve written about Rakuten before because I love making money easily from home. This is such an easy way to stack the savings with the good deals you find online. Simple sign up for Rakuten and click through their website to earn cash back on every online purchase you make.

Here are some of the current cash back percentages on stores that sell uniforms. Also, during back to school time they regularly raise these percentages! I have earned 8% – 10% back on some of these same stores that are normally 2%. You have to wait and see for those percentages, but it is always worth starting at Rakuten to earn cash back on your online purchases.

  • Old Navy 2%
  • Children’s Place 1%
  • Target 1%
  • Kohls 2%
  • Lands End 2%
  • 2.5%

The percentage might not seem high, but every little bit adds up! If you are already shopping online, why not make an extra little bit on top of your other savings? Rakuten is very easy to use and a great way to save more money on uniforms. Just think, you can use all the money you earn this year on uniforms to spend on uniforms next year!

Sign up for Rakuten here – plus get a $10 bonus on your first purchase!

4. Shop the sales and stack coupons.

You should never pay full price for uniforms! Watch for sales and buy your uniforms when you find a good sale. Remember that just because something is on sale right now, doesn’t mean it is the best sale.

Watch the sales and determine your best price point for uniforms. For example, I know Old Navy will put their polos on sale for $3 at least once a summer, so I watch for that sale. $3 is my price point for polos. $3 is definitely buying uniforms for cheap! Knowing that helps me sort through the sales to find the absolute best deals.

It is even better if you compare sale notes with another mom friend. Tell each other when you find good deals or find uniform clearance at a store so you can both save money! My friend, Andrea, and I text each other when we find a good deal in case the other hasn’t seen that particular sale. We work together and help each other save money on our uniforms!

Sign up for newsletters on the brands you like to watch for sales and coupons. Get the Lands End catalog and look at the Old Navy emails. I have received three $5 Children’s Place reward emails – just because. With their free shipping, that often makes for a free polo!

Take advantage of free shipping offers. Children’s Place now offers free shipping 365 / 24 / 7 with no minimum which makes for great deals, especially when you are purchasing in small quantities. For other stores, watch for free shipping offers or free pick up in store to save you more money.

Redeem your rewards – if it saves you more money. Old Navy regularly awards Super Cash for your purchases. Hold on to it and do more uniform shopping when it arrives, perhaps buying uniforms in the next size for next year. If the reward isn’t useful right now then don’t feel pressured to spend it. $5 off $25 saves you $5, but it still requires you to spend $20. If that is money that isn’t in your budget right now, it’s okay to pass and wait for another sale.

5. Know who has the best sales for your kids and the school uniforms you need.

This is the part that takes a bit of trial and error. Last year, when my son first started wearing uniforms, I bought lots of different brands to see which fit him best. We quickly learned that the Kohls quality of polos was poor, especially compared to Children’s Place. Walmart had the only pull on elastic pants (no zippers or buttons) that were true uniform pants. Lands End polos are the best quality but much more expensive. I always watch for Lands End polos at our children’s consignment store.

Once you know the brands that fit your child best and lasts well, watch for sales on those items. For example, here is my process with the best sales.

  • Shop Old Navy’s $3 polo sale.
  • Use Old Navy’s Super Cash to buy uniform shorts if they are on sale at the time.
  • Watch for Children’s Place $4 polo sale and 50% off uniform bottoms sale.
  • Watch Land’s End for clearance uniform sales.
  • Shop Walmart’s low prices to buy uniform pants and fill in gaps.

Polos generally fit the same regardless of brand but uniform bottoms can be very different. Save money by only buying the brands that fit your kids best.

These are five ways I save money on uniforms. Do you have any money saving tips to add to this list?

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  1. Our school requires logo polos, uniform bottoms, and our specific school plaid for jumpers and skirts of chapel days. We do have to use a particular uniform supplier. This makes it a much more costly process (new logo polos are $30, the chapel jumper is $44, the blouse with navy piping is $40).
    The ways I’ve found to save are:
    -Sign up for the company email list. You’ll get alerted to coupon codes and sales. Also follow their social media pages for the same reason.
    -See if your school has a buy/sell or parent facebook page. This is great especially when a kid hits a mid-year growth spurt. Someone else is always looking to sell their nearly new uniforms because their child just grew 2 inches.
    -Our uniform supplier offers a “woman’s cut” or unisex cut for the school polo. I always buy the unisex cut so my son can wear them once my daughter grows out of them.
    -My favorite, I ended up becoming good friends with a mom who has a son in my daughter’s grade and a daughter in my son’s grade. There are a lot of uniform pieces we just swap. When my daughter grows out of a skirt I send it to her younger daughter. When her son grows out of uniform pants she sends them to my younger son.

    1. Great tips! I love the unisex cut point too. I have been doing the same, so both my boys and girls can wear the same polos. And I absolutely LOVE your tip about trading uniforms with a good mom friend. What a great way for you both to save! Thanks for sharing how you keep your more expensive uniform costs down, Leslie!

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