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Back-To-School Shopping Will Be More Expensive This Year—These Tips Can Help



Back-To-School Shopping Will Be More Expensive This Year—These Tips Can Help

Many parents look forward to back-to-school time after a summer fraught with sibling squabbles and too many choruses of “what can I do?” One thing we don’t get as excited over? Back-to-school shopping.

Between backpacks, lunch boxes, water bottles, shoes, clothes, and long lists of supplies, the amount of money required come August is enough to make this mom forget to breathe for a moment.

The pit of anxiety taking root in my stomach has only grown upon seeing a series of surveys that confirm how pricey BTS shopping will be this year. First, a Retail Dive study reports that parents will spend nearly 22% more on back-to-school purchases in 2024. We can expect to drop $475 per child—this, compared to an already-exorbitant spend of $390 in 2023.

Meanwhile, the survey found that despite inflation, parents who earn more than $50,000 do not plan to cut back on BTS shopping, while those who earn less than $50,000 are hoping to find sales.

Another study by NerdWallet asserts that 20% of parents are going with a “buy now, pay later” approach to stocking up on jeans, binders, sneakers, and backpacks. Still, 31% of parents plan to have a talk or have spoken with their kids about their BTS shopping budget.

Finally, a Sensormatic survey found that 18% of parents already kicked off their hunt for the best deals in June (August is still expected to be the busiest month for BTS shopping). The survey also found that 75% of shoppers consider price to be the most important factor when looking through racks in store, while a little more than half of those surveyed hope to reuse supplies from last year to save money. And nearly half are planning to hit discount stores to avoid going into debt.

With this anxiety-producing data as a backdrop, the reality is truly setting in that this back-to-school season is going to cost a lot. That’s because I’ll also be taking my five kids to pick out their first day-of-school outfits, plus the Nikes everyone is wearing, and the trendiest Stanley water bottle. I’m recognizing that the true cause of my fear is that I don’t want to let my kids down if I have to say “no.”

“The back-to-school season is always expensive,” confirms Sara Rathner, Credit Cards Expert at NerdWallet. “Students need a lot of stuff in a short period, and it adds up quickly.” 

Rathner says getting the most bang for your buck is all about “planning and shopping ahead.” She explains, “Not only does this help take some tasks off your enormous to-do list as the school year begins, but it can also give you time to comparison shop and take advantage of sales.” 

Back-To-School Shopping Tips

Consider these effective strategies to cut down on stress and on your total at the register:

  • Make a detailed shopping list before spending any money. 
  • Take inventory of what you already have at home, such as supplies from previous years, or hand-me-down items from your older children, or friends with older kids.
  • Check prices online and set a precise budget for the items you plan to buy. 
  • Plan your shopping around in-store or online sales.
  • Search online for coupons.
  • Use a cash-back card if you intend to pay via credit card to save about 2 to 6% off your purchases.

I’d add that taking younger kids to discount stores for clothes is key because they usually don’t yet care about labels. For older kids with, ahem, more refined tastes, it’s all about setting expectations ahead of time. For example, anything my kids want that’s over the budget comes out of their summer job earnings. I also stress to my kids that they don’t need to buy every single item for the year before the first day of school. For instance, where we live in Florida, it’s too hot to wear sweaters until November.

In the end, I wish all of you BTS shopping warrior parents much luck as you head out to Target, Walmart, the mall, or wherever you shop. At least we’re all in this together!

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