New school year could leave UK parents with £1.5 billion bill

More than a fifth of parents will rely on credit cards to fund purchases

19 August 2013

As the start of the new school year approaches, parents of the UK’s 8.1 million¹ school children aged 5 to 16 could be facing a bill of £1.5 billion to kit out their children ready for the new term according to new research by Nationwide Building Society.

An average of £180 per child² will be spent over the coming weeks to ensure children are prepared for the start of term. This figure includes:

  • £110 on new school clothes, such as uniform and sports kits;
  • £50 on new school shoes, including trainers and plimsolls;
  • £20 on school bags and other essential items, such as stationery, pencil cases, water bottles and lunch boxes

The study also suggests that older parents surveyed are likely to spend more on their children in preparation for the new term. Parents aged 55 plus spend an average of £212 per child.

More and more parents are turning to the UK’s supermarkets to buy their child’s school uniform and other school clothes, with around three fifths (58 per cent) saying they make these purchases there. Department stores are also a popular choice for buying uniforms with 42 per cent of parents. However, some parents appear to have little choice about where to buy uniform and other clothes with nearly a quarter (24 per cent) indicating they will be visiting a shop that has been requested by their child’s school.

With so many items needed, parents are naturally concerned about how they are going to finance these purchases. Around two out of every five parents (38 per cent) are worried about how they will pay for everything.

As a result, more than a fifth of parents (22 per cent) will rely on their credit card, with one in ten parents admitting they will turn to the grandparents for financial help. A further 15 per cent of parents say they will need to dip into their savings to ensure children have everything they need for the start of term. Around three quarters (76 per cent) say that they will use cash sitting in their current account to fund items needed.

Graham Pilkington, Nationwide’s director for banking, comments: “Even when the kids are at school, parents have to spend money. Following on from the summer holidays, where our recent research showed that parents are likely to have spent £1,000 per child, this latest expense makes the July to September period one of the most expensive of the year for parents.

“With more and more items required to send kids back to school in September, the financial burden is becoming even greater. Parents understand this with nearly two in five admitting that they worry about how they are going to pay for everything.

“With 0 per cent purchase deals and cashback offers available, a number of parents are turning to credit cards to fund these purchases as they can offer an efficient means to buy what’s needed. What’s more, where the card offers cashback, this can also help to offset some of the expenditure.”

Notes to editors:

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,012 UK parents of children aged 5-16 years whose child will be attending school in the next academic year. Fieldwork was undertaken between 7th - 13th August 2013. The survey was carried out online.

¹ Table 1.2, page 11:
² This figure relates to parents who know what they are likely to spend and provided a monetary figure

About Nationwide Building Society

Nationwide is the world's largest building society as well as the second largest savings provider and a top-three provider of mortgages in the UK. It is also a major provider of current accounts, credit cards, ISAs and personal loans. Nationwide has around 15 million customers.

Customers can manage their finances in a branch, on the telephone, internet and post. The Society has around 15,000 employees. Nationwide's head office is in Swindon with administration centres based in Northampton, Bournemouth and Dunfermline. The Society also has a number of call centres across the UK.

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