Back-To-School Budgets

Survey: Back-To-School Shopping Could Cost Parents $168 More Than Pre-Pandemic

A new survey highlights just how much more expensive school supplies have become in the last three years.

Father and daughter buying school supplies preparing to go back to school, preparing for september, ...

Back-to-school season has officially begun! Of course, every season, parents have a mix of excitement and stress as we look forward to the return of routine. But parents also know the return of school days will come with a few hundred dollars of expenses first. The price adds up quickly between purchasing backpacks, uniforms, notebooks, and other supplies.

Unfortunately, inflation has driven up the cost of many items — including school supplies. Per one survey, parents will likely spend hundreds more this back-to-school season than during the pre-pandemic back-to-school shopping year of 2019. Here's what you need to know.

According to July's Consumer Price Index, while food prices are where we have seen the highest inflation rates (9% higher than last year), clothes, supplies, and educational books have also been struck with inflation. Clothing is up 5% from last year, and school supplies and educational books are 2.5% pricier than last year.

Those percentages may look small, but it translates to hundreds of dollars parents spend for the same supplies they got last year. And according to a survey of more than 1,000 consumers done by RetailMeNot, the back-to-school shopping season brings a lot of stress.

The survey found that 40% of shoppers say the amount they spend on supplies is a big source of stress. However, compared to last year, only 25% of people polled considered finances the most significant stress. Additionally, 35% said their back-to-school anxiety is fueled by how they will make the most of their budgets.

The survey by RetailMeNot noted shoppers are prioritizing supplies and clothes over electronics. Shoppers are planning to spend $192 on school supplies, up 55% from last year. Budgets set for clothing are up 2% this year at $320 vs. $314; while spending on electronics and backpacks are down, with a 21% drop and 28% drop, respectively.

These trends are backed up by a more extensive survey of 7,830 consumers conducted by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics. The survey found a clear cost jump when comparing back-to-school spending from 2019 to this year.

"Shoppers are expected to spend $168 more on average" for school supplies this year, and in total, spending is up by $11 billion. “Families with children in elementary through high school plan to spend an average of $864 on school items” and about $15 more on supplies than they did in 2021, the report notes.

There are a few opportunities for families to save money on back-to-school supplies. Several states offer tax-free windows and weekends in which state sales taxes are suspended. In many states, those windows have already passed, but in a handful, they are still ongoing. In Michigan, Governor Gretchen Whitmer is floating the idea of suspending sales taxes on school supplies to help relieve some financial pressure on parents. In any case, back-to-school shopping this season could be tougher on parents’ wallets.