The new school year is rapidly approaching, and now is the time to organise school uniform. Some of the even-more-organised among you may have already ticked that off your to-do list. (In which case well done, you can stop reading and go and grab a coffee!)
If you are anything like me though, you may have waited until now in case of a sudden growth spurt over the summer holidays. I’m glad I waited, as Mr 5 has grown quite a bit since June when, I admit, I was very tempted just to go ahead and buy what we needed. Here are some thoughts on making the most of your budget, and not going crazy in the process.
What do you need? First of all, write a list of everything – absolutely everything – that you need. Ask for the school uniform list from school. Speak to other parents who have experienced the year that your little one is going into. Find out what was really necessary, and what was optional (maybe you can leave these things until a couple of weeks in, to avoid unnecessary expenditure, and then make a decision based on experience rather than the supplies list). Do you have anything at home that will do the job, or do you need to buy specific items? For example, my son has lots of swimming gear already, but needs school-branded swimming shorts for school swimming lessons.
How much do you need? Now work out how many you need of each item. This is dependent on your circumstances and your laundry routine. Will you do a wash half-way through the week, so will only need three shirts? Or perhaps (like me) you prefer to have one shirt for each day, and one for spare, and then do all the laundry at the weekend. This certainly saves the stress of keeping up with the laundry through the week, although it is obviously more expensive at the outset. Does your little one come home from school each day, dressed as a walking advertisement for the day’s activities? Covered in snack, paint, lunch, milk, his best friend’s lunch… and pockets full of sand and who knows what else? Then you may need to consider more than one “spare”! Or maybe they are not great at keeping an eye on their possessions. Or seem to fall over every other day and put holes through their clothes. A few back-up items will help lessen the stress.
Where to buy? Many schools have a set uniform that is only available in selected outlets or through the school itself. Find out where these are and check summer holiday opening times. It’s going to be busy in there – go early when your child is bright and excited about school. Or later in the afternoon when most people will have gone home, although make sure your child is in the right frame of mind. For the lucky ones who can wear generic off-the-shelf clothing, many of the major chain stores have excellent prices on school uniform at this time of year. Do some research on-line before you hit the mall, to work out who is offering the best deals, and who has the most appropriate styles / colours to match your uniform requirements.
Sizing: For children returning to the same school, it can be easier to work out sizing based on the previous year’s clothes. For some of the lucky ones, it may even still fit! In which case, go and join the even-more-organised for that coffee, (but only once you have double-checked that it really does fit). For children starting a new school, you may need to be a bit more scientific. I carry Mr 5’s measurements around with me on my phone, but I will make the point of re-measuring his waist, chest and height before going uniform shopping. He will be with me, but I don’t want to rely on him wanting to trying everything on. Again, ask other parents whether the sizing comes up big or small, so that you can be prepared.
Labelling: Make sure that you give yourself enough time to label everything before the first day of school. Older children can help with this, but even the little ones can be responsible for sticking shoe stickers in shoes, and checking that all their new clothes are labelled. If you haven’t ordered labels yet, add that right to the top of your to-do list and get it ticked off a.s.a.p! There are so many options for labelling – I use iron-on tapes, sticky labels and even Sharpie laundry pen straight onto the manufacturers label. I have since found that hair straighteners are an amazingly quick way to “iron on” the name tapes, so it doesn’t take long at all.
Organising the wardrobe: Once the uniform is ready and labelled, find a place in the wardrobe to hang it up so that you are all ready to go on the first morning of school. Involve your little ones so that they know where everything is and can reach it themselves. Even the youngest school children can dress themselves each morning, giving you a valuable extra five minutes in your own morning routine. Now is also the perfect opportunity to review the non-school gear – grab any clothes that have been outgrown over the summer and pop them in your donate pile, and discard anything that has been damaged over the holidays.
Back to school is a big deal! Our Mr 5 has been looking forward to uniform shopping for weeks, so I have involved him in writing the shopping list. And to celebrate our uniform spree, we are going to finish it off with supper at his choice of restaurant. After all, I think we will deserve it!