Everyone felt the anticipation of back-to-school costs and looked forward to smooth sailing. But… we all know how that works. School supplies don’t really last forever, textbooks “disappear”, and yes, obviously we bought the wrong high lighters. The tools required to learn how to save money before the school year must also be applied throughout the school year as we all know these costs are not really a one-time cost.
Back-to-school spending costs is estimated to rise up to 1.8%* more this year than the previous year. In fact, 69% of parents with kids going back-to-school age ranging from kindergarten to grade 12 say sales and discounts are a key and 57% of parents that responded to a survey** conducted by RetailMeNot stated that competitive prices were a top motivator for purchasing. Parents look for products the kids choose or want but only want to buy them at a competitive price.
In order to ease the prices, parents will forgo the convenience of the premade school supplies packages that are sold through parent or school associations and/or companies. Through a survey** conducted, only 21% of parents reported they were going to purchase these packages, where the rest opted to purchase the individual supplies at local supply stores. Being that the Costs of living increase, parents who are looking for a way to save on back-to-school shopping tend to wait for sales, coupons, deals or tax-free weekends. So, when sales pop up, especially for the holidays, perhaps buying supplies or outfits for the school year is more important than extra holiday gifts.
Are you the average school spender?
A recent survey conducted by RetailMeNot found that parents will spend an average of $507 on back-to-school supply shopping. Reports estimate parents to spend more in 2018 then they did in 2017, due to a successful retail year.
Parents have suggested various ways to save when shopping back-to-school **. One parent suggested only buying new things where the kid actually needs it. For example, once they have outgrown their shoes or clothes, then new ones should be bought. Before replacing their supplies, books and schoolbags look to see if the previous year’s are salvageable. Believe it or not, some have even put in place a deal with their kids to provide the basic necessities for back-to-school, but anything extra, the kids would have to cover the difference. These parents have extended this as a lesson to teach their kids. Not having flashy and shiny new things for a new school year would ease the pressure for those who can not afford to purchase new shoes and supplies for the start of the school year.
Parents don’t have to place a specific budgeted amount for back-to-school but by tracking how much you spend can help you save by seeing how much all the different items add up. By listing what is necessary to purchase and what is extra, the costs associated with them can give insight into areas in which you can save or spend less. Creating a shopping list and sticking to it can help avoid purchasing unnecessary items that end up costing more than necessary. For example, purchasing used schoolbooks is a common way parents save on back-to-school costs. When new book lists come out during the year, see if second-hand books are available and grab them! As well, using loyalty and rewards programs can bring costs down when purchasing. Other parents have suggested to their kids to ask grandparents as a “back-to-school gift” to help purchase more expensive back-to-school supplies.
Other ideas include creating a challenge or game for your children to get involved and learn about money and cost savings. The parents give the child a budget and turn it into a contest to see who can get all the supplies they need and still have money left over for extras. This teaches them skills like comparing prices when shopping, budgeting and careful spending.
Statistics have shown that back-to-school is the third biggest retail spending just below black Friday and Christmas. The costs are associated with purchasing new clothes, sports gear, supplies and electronics. And many families struggle to keep up with these costs. Studies show a rise in spending from 2017 to 2018 by 36%. Parents feel the pressure to buy new and branded items for children especially when schools insist on specific branded products. Parents feel the pressure to also stay on the latest trends for their kids. Computer purchases also contributed to the annual rise comparison. In 2018, 11% of parents purchased technology for their kids going back-to-school. 53% of parents have said they find back-to-school shopping a stressful time of the year.
The national retail federation estimates back-to-school spending for 2019 to be at a record high, at an average of $696 per child for children in elementary and high school. Some practical tools to help save you money are:
- First, go through the supplies you already have at home from previous years. Keep all supplies in one place to create an easy way to track and locate what you have. Compare it to the school lists and see what can be used that you already have. OR you can create a list of what you already have so when you go school supplies shopping you have a list of everything you have at home and don’t need to purchase. The same thing can be done for clothing. Search through the closet and see what still fits from the previous year and what can’t be used or handed down to the next child, donate and clear out. This will help prevent you from shopping for things you don’t need and already have.
- Parents can also suggest trading supplies with families and friends. Do a comparison of what you have, what you need and what your friends and families have and do not need. See if there are any possibilities for “trading.”
- Shop at discounted stores like dollar stores instead of going to big supply stores that tend to overcharge for items especially during back-to-school shopping season. Often similar supplies and brands are sold at discounted stores for a cheaper price. Parents should shop early in the season to avoid stores running low of stock of required products.
- Consignment shops for used computers and books are a good place to find discounted expensive items that tend to have the highest costs. Check your local consignment shops for any sales they may be having throughout the summer. Shopping during sales tax holidays or weekends with extra sales will help save as well.
- Follow stores on social media to know when the sales and discounts are and purchase what you need before stock runs low. You can also search online for coupons in certain stores that will discount your purchases.
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By Kimberly MacDonald, Financial Advisor