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Majority of parents worried about the cost of back-to-school shopping, survey shows

Parents and teachers are feeling the effects of inflation and rising costs as back-to-school shopping kicks off.

Majority of parents worried about the cost of back-to-school shopping, survey shows

The back-to-school season has arrived, but this year’s new backpacks and freshly sharpened pencils are accompanied by financial stress for many families. In a new survey, the majority of parents report serious concerns about the expected cost of back-to-school shopping this year, and it may change the way they shop.

A July survey by U.S. News and World Report shows that nearly 77% of parents are “moderately” or “very” concerned about back-to-school expenses due to rising costs. The number jumps to 96% when you include the parents who report being at least “a little worried.” Their fears are bolstered by inflation and the already high cost of preparing kids for school.

Of the more than 1,200 respondents, over a quarter say they expect to spend between $101-$200 per child on school necessities this year, and 24% said they expect the cost to fall somewhere between $200-$300 per kid. As a result, many are looking for creative ways to save money and scale back on how much they buy. According to the survey results:

  • 31.9% plan to buy secondhand products.
  • 31.6% say the quality of sales will significantly impact where they shop.
  • 29.9% are waiting to shop during sales tax holidays.
  • 20.4% plan to use credit cards and carry a balance.
  • 66.1% plan to reduce their back-to-school shopping altogether.

Are school supplies really more expensive this year?

Inflation has spiked in 2022, and some items on school supply lists may certainly be impacted. For the 12-month period ending in June, inflation rose by 9.1%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This represents the largest 12-month increase since November 1981.

In addition to rising prices this year, the National Retail Federation reports that back-to-school shopping has gotten increasingly more expensive each year since 2019. Over this three-year period, total expected spending for back-to-school shopping has increased 36%. For back-to-school shoppers buying stuff for college, total expected spending increased 41%.

Parents and students aren’t the only ones impacted by rising prices. Teachers spend an average of $750 out of pocket on classroom decor and supplies for their students, according to a June 2021 survey by the nonprofit Adopt A Classroom. About a third of respondents report spending more than $1,000. On social media, many teachers are already posting their school supply wish lists using the hashtag #ClearTheLists so followers can help fund their classroom necessities.

What can people do to save money on back-to-school shopping?

For families and educators looking to save money on back-to-school expenses, there are a few options that might help. This year, 19 states are holding back-to-school sales tax holidays. In many of these states, tax exemptions include popular school supply list items like:

  • Clothing.
  • Electronics.
  • Backpacks.
  • Instructional materials.

More back-to-school savings tips: 8 ways to get free school supplies this year

In addition to shopping during a sales tax holiday, families can also use competitive sales to their advantage. Retailers are competing for shoppers with deals on everything from basic school supplies to educational tech gear. Major retailers holding special back-to-school sales over the next several weeks include:

According to the National Retail Federation, stores are bringing in back-to-school inventory earlier and keeping sales running even longer than usual. Hopefully these efforts combined with sales tax holidays can help families and educators ease into the new school year and lighten the strain on their wallets.

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