Back-to-school shopping trips used to be magical — checking the school supplies off our list, picking out the best Lisa Frank folders and #2 pencils, and being giddy with anticipation for another school year. These days, however, what used to be an exciting outing has turned into a money-draining, stressful task for most parents, thanks to inflation, supply chain issues, and the endless pandemic.
A recent study conducted by Savings.com reported that the average parent is expected to spend a total of $697 on school supplies for the 2022-23 school year. Savings.com polled over 500 parents, asking how much they expect inflation and high prices to effect their back-to-school spending compared to years prior.
School supply costs are right in line with the rising prices of food, gasoline, and utility bills. Knowing this, parents are preparing their bank accounts for an increase in back-to-school shopping budgets.
In 2021, one in four parents surveyed hoped back-to-school spending would land them around $150 total. This year, only 11% of parents believe they'll even come close to that, according to the survey. Over 40% of parents think they’ll spend much more for the 2022-2023 school year.
So, why the giant jump in spend? Inflation is part of the cause, but the transition of kids going back to in-person learning has also led parents to spend more. Parents are planning to buy clothing and footwear for their kids, which takes a large slice of the pie for back-to-school spending, accounting for an average of $160 per child. Electronics and basic school supplies make up the rest.
“As students have largely transitioned back to in-person learning, they’re more likely to need to invest in clothing and traditional school supplies, rather than electronics needed for virtual learning,” the study explains.
With school supply prices soaring, some parents are concerned they won’t be able to provide their children with everything they need for the school year. In a recent study conducted by Morning Consult, over 2,000 parents were surveyed about back-to-school shopping. Only 36% of those parents said they can afford their kids’ back-to-school shopping — down from 52% last year — which also saw a 5% increase in parents expressing anxiety about back-to-school shopping.
Parents are planning on scraping by in the usual ways when money is tight — credit card spending, cutting budgets in other areas, and deal-hunting. About 44% of parents told Spending.com they’d be seeking help from friends, family, and charitable organizations to cut back-to-school spending costs.
In a survey by Qualtrics for Credit Karma, 42% of parents with kids going back-to-school planned to take on debt to pay for school shopping.
“Just over half of parents who say they plan to take on debt to pay for back-to-school shopping expect to take on more than $300 in debt, with another one-in-five taking on more than $500 in debt to pay for things like clothing and other school supplies,” Colleen McCreary, consumer financial advocate at Credit Karma, explained.
Many states are also offering tax-free weekends, or a sales tax holiday, hoping to help parents save on school supplies during a year of high inflation. Several retailers, like Target, Old Navy, Kohl’s, and Walmart, are trying to address parents’ concerns of high prices by offering deals leading up to the start of school. Still, it’s one more area where many parents will feel the financial strain this year.