As temperatures drop and power bills rise, parents are battling the strain of winter uniform costs.

A Tauranga budget advice expert says families were spending an average of $400 per child for a school uniform each year.

Families were struggling to pay for uniforms because their budgets didn't stretch that far or they simply didn't plan for it.

Salvation Army store manager Sharlene Farrell said secondhand uniform sales had tripled in the last year and some students were even buying their own uniforms from the store.

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"Racks empty out every single day."

Farrell was also a parent who could not afford to buy brand-new uniforms and said parents talked about the stress of these costs.

But there had also been an increase in uniform donations, Farrell said, meaning the demand could be met.

Fraser Cove Postie third-in-charge Rachael Kelly said a larger percentage of their customers in recent weeks were parents looking for warm uniform basics such as long white shirts.

Kelly said parents came in because of the difference in prices and spoke of how much cheaper it was to avoid official school uniform shops.

"Parents obviously can't afford it especially when they're clothing five kids, we've heard of that a lot."

Tauranga mother Jena Young said food, heating, shelter, and clothing come before anything else and there was no excuse for children to not be warm at school.

Young has two children, 5 and 14, and said she budgeted, planned ahead and paid bills on time to make sure she did not have any debts as she had no money to spare.

"Children come first. I have a strict budget I stick to. Prior to the school year a few months in advance I layby one child's uniform once that is paid I layby the other child's uniform."

Young, like many other parents, shopped around for uniforms using Facebook buy-and-sell groups, secondhand stores and The Warehouse to keep costs down.

Greerton Village School principal Anne Macintosh said she appreciated uniforms were an expense but it saved parents money compared to wearing mufti every day.

"It's far more cost-effective," she said.

The school had a basic, year-round uniform and a winter polar fleece which could be bought at high quality from New Zealand Uniform or shops like Postie Plus or The Warehouse.

"We have so many parts of uniform in the lost property that nobody claims so it wouldn't be as expensive it kids took more care of them."

Bethlehem College had a summer, winter and PE uniform and principal Eoin Crosbie said he had not heard about parents struggling to provide warmer uniforms.

Crosbie said while they could provide scholarships and grants for families that needed financial support, most families paid for everything.

"We try to minimise those kinds of subsidies because that's not what the funding is for, the funding is for learning," he said.

Crosbie said warm classrooms meant the winter did not impact learning - hotter weather was where they noticed an issue in the classroom as keeping cool was more difficult.

Tauranga Budget Advisory Service manager Shirley McCombe said families were spending an average of about $400 per child on school uniforms for the entire year.

McCombe said costs varied as some schools required families to buy entire uniforms including tops, bottoms, jerseys, socks and smocks - while others asked students to wear any type of black bottoms, polo shirts and jerseys.

"Families struggle to pay for uniforms because they do not have space in their weekly budgets to put money aside or they simply don't plan for it," she said.

"Many do not budget and rely heavily on Work and Income for assistance. Some schools have options for paying off uniforms."

Having a budget and putting a small amount away each week made it much easier to save for school uniforms, McCombe said.

"Particularly for uniforms which are needed right after the Christmas and the holiday period."

Additional reporting - Zoe Hunter