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New Survey Confirms Back-to-School Spending Has Gotten Out of Control

Spending per household is projected to fall just short of $700, a record for the 17-year-old survey.

As another school year begins, families are once again spending a record amount of money on back-to-school expenses, a category that’s expanded to include a variety of items from notebooks and new clothes to tablets and other expensive electronic items.

This according to a new survey from the National Retail Federation, the world’s largest retail trade association. According to its research, the average planned spending per household for back-to-school shoppers is $696.70, a record high in the 17-year history of the survey and nearly $12 more than last year’s average.

Where’s that money going? The biggest expense category is clothing and accessories, which will average $239.82. The other top categories are electronics ($203.44), shoes ($135.96), and school supplies ($117.49).

Somehow, it’s even worse for parents with kids in college. The average amount those households are spending on back-to-college shoppers is $976.78, about $34 more than last year’s average and also the highest amount ever recorded in the survey.

For parents, this news is neither good nor surprising. There’s compelling evidence that both the cost of supplies and the number of supplies required by schools are increasing. That means the overall financial burden parents must shoulder is growing at a rate faster than inflation.

Another survey from points to another factor in the increase. It found that four in 10 parents who have gone back-to-school shopping have felt pressured to overspend, a number that includes over half of millennial parents.

“This is the first time we’re studying this aspect of back-to-school spending, but my educated guess is that the perceived pressure to overspend is on the rise,” said analyst Ted Rossman.