Your family will probably spend $890 on back-to-school shopping this year, retail trade group says

Back-to-school shopping has never been more expensive.

U.S. shoppers are expected to spend record amounts for back-to-school and back-to-college supplies this year, according to an annual survey by the National Retail Federation (NRF). The demand for more electronics in the classroom is the main driver of this uptick. 

“Even though consumers plan to spend more on school and college-related items this year, they are still looking to find the best value and deals,” said Phil Rist, executive vice president of strategy at Prosper, a consumer data and analytics company that worked with NRF on the study.

“Consumers are stretching their dollars by comparing prices, considering off-brand or store-brand items, and are more likely to shop at discount stores than last year,” he added.

Back-to-school spending for families with children in elementary through high school is expected to reach $41.5 billion, roughly $4.6 billion, or 12% more than last year, according to the NRF, which released its study in July. That’s roughly $890 spent on school supplies per family.

And as laptops and tablets replace papers, pens, and textbooks in the classroom, parents are spending more on technology than in any year past. Spending on electronics is estimated to reach a record high of $15.2 billion, up 65% from last year, with 69% of families expecting to buy electronics or other computer-related accessories this year. 

Back-to-college spending is slated to see an even greater increase, up $20 billion since last year’s record to an expected $94 billion this year, according to the NRF. Spending is expected to average $1,350 per student, with big-ticket items like laptops, phones, calculators, and dormitory furnishings accounting for much of that.

Reassessing back-to-school shopping

But a Deloitte survey from July contrasts with the NRF research, stating that parents will actually spend 10% less this year, given the financial stress they’re feeling from inflation and rising interest rates. It estimates that overall spending will decrease to $31.2 billion, and to roughly $600 per student.

“Consumers will likely prioritize where they spend money as they look to replenish their savings accounts and spend on experiences, such as summer vacations, over goods,” Nick Handrinos, vice chairman and U.S. leader of Deloitte’s retail and consumer products practice, said in the survey.

“Parents are likely to be strategic about their spending to help ensure children are set up for success at the start of the school year by renewing school supplies but perhaps holding off on new clothing until needed,” Handrinos added.

Sixty percent of parents expect that inflation will have either a “very big” or “extremely big” impact on their back-to-school shopping, according to Axios, citing a survey by art supply company Crayola. In addition, the cost of school supplies has risen nearly 24% in the past two years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ consumer price index.

Parents of children in elementary school through high school who are more price sensitive will reassess how they approach back-to-school shopping, according to Deloitte. Some say they will delay purchases on nonessential items, while others plan to use cash rather than credit cards for these buys given rising interest rates.

To be sure, nearly 60% of parents in the Deloitte survey said they were willing to splurge on better quality products or give their child a little extra.

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