Whether your child attends public school or private school, high school or college, back-to-school shopping is always an added expense. But this year, the cost is expected to be slightly less per family than it was last year.
While back-to-school spending last year averaged $688.62 for families with K-12 children, spending this year is expected to average $634.78, according to the National Retail Federation. In total, families are expected to spend a total of $26.7 billion for K-12 children, although that number reaches $72.5 billion when college-aged kids are added to calculations.
The biggest cost for back-to-school shoppers? Apparel and accessories, followed by electronics.
While average spending is predicted to fall from last year, the president of the National Retail Federation said in a statement that “spending levels are still well above where they were a few years ago.”
“The good news is that consumers are spending, but they are doing so with cost and practicality in mind. Having splurged on their growing children’s needs last year, parents will ask their kids to reuse what they can for the upcoming school season,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “As they continue to grapple with the impact of increased payroll taxes, Americans will look to cut corners where they can, but will buy what their kids need.”
Capital One broke down the cost of back-to-school shopping per child, finding that 32 percent of parents plan to spend $100 or less per child, and that 21 percent plan to pay more than $200 per child. Still, 21 percent of parents spend more on September school supplies than they save for their child’s college education each year, according to Capital One's data.
Huffington Post blogger Adam Levin recently pointed out that it is important for parents to have an established budget before they start shopping. He also noted that sometimes it is better for parents to shop without their kids, in order to avoid pressures to make unnecessary purchases.
"Unless it is absolutely necessary (or a family bonding exercise) to have them with you, it's best to leave the munchkins at home," writes Levin. "If you want to know their preferences, browse with them online before hitting the stores. The last thing you need is to be weaving through crowds at Staples, Kmart or Target, or navigating several online retailers, while fending off cries of, 'Mommy, I really NEED to have this.'"
On the other hand, Huff Post blogger Samantha Kemp-Jackson recently wrote that bringing her kids along for back-to-school shopping trips makes it easier and more efficient.
"By letting the kids exert a little bit of control over what they want, you'll have more willing and compliant shoppers during your outing, and isn't that what we're all looking for?" wrote Kemp-Jackson.
Capital One advises that back-to-school shopping season is the perfect time for parents to talk to their children about budgeting and financial literacy.
“Many parents say they’re talking with kids about important concepts like wants vs. needs this shopping season -- which is great news -- but parents can further reinforce those practices by building a shopping budget with teens, discussing priorities and trade-offs, and comparison shopping together to get the best deals,” Shelley Solheim, Capital One's director of financial education, said in a statement released by the company.
No matter how much you plan, however, surprise costs could crop up. In July, HuffPost Live interviewed a mom who received from her child's public high school a bill for nearly $600, which included a charge for a $300 Chromebook laptop that students were required to buy even if they had a different kind of computer at home.
And there might be another reason to spend less on back to school shopping. A report from NameBubbles.com shows that most kids end up losing many of their shiny new supplies by year's end.
Earlier on HuffPost:
Bento-ware Lunch Boxes
Bento boxes are fun because you can compartmentize your child’s meal and give the impression that you are offering them something diverse for lunch. Unlike traditional bento boxes, the <a href="http://www.laptoplunches.com/" target="_blank">Bento-ware Lunch Boxes are divided into smaller removable containers</a> with sealable lids. The containers are microwave-safe and prevent leaking – eliminating the threat of soy sauce dripping from your child’s backpack. <em>Bento-ware Lunch Boxes, $24, </em>
If the pen is mightier than the sword, then how powerful will your kid feel with a Ruler Pen? <a href="http://www.goldspot.com/" target="_blank">The Ruler Pen</a> is actually a multi-purpose device that can also be used as a pencil, highlighter, and a PDA stylus – ensuring that your child has the write stuff. <em>Acme 4FP Ruler Pen Multi Functional Pen, $39</em>
Wordlock Locker Padlock
Was that 35 left, 49 right, and 21 full circle or…doh?! Even if your child is a math genius, he or she will most likely forget their lock combination at one point or another. Remembering a single password such as BIEBER or 1DIRCTN is probably a lot easier and reduces the chances of getting the school janitor having to bust open your kid’s locker again. <a href="http://www.wordlock.com/" target="_blank">The Wordlock Padlock</a> offers 100,000 possible resettable word and letter combinations and is rated at 4047 pounds cut strength. All this durability and security is worthless, however, if you child simply uses their name as their locker password. <em>Wordlock Locker Padlock, $10</em>
Personalized Teacher's Gift Apple Key Chain
Some kids will try to position themselves as Teacher’s Pet on the first day of school by giving their educator an apple (especially if they went to school in Pleasantville). Give your child a leg up on these brown-nosers by sending them to school with a 1 1/4" stainless steel enameled apple charm key ring – <a href="http://www.etsy.com/ca/listing/124696877/personalized-teachers-gift-apple-key" target="_blank">personalized with the teacher’s name. </a>Your child will easily win their teacher’s heart and the attention of cynical, larger classmates. <em>Personalized Teacher's Gift Apple Key Chain, $21</em>
All-In-One Camo Backpack With Cooler
A child’s backpack can be a bottomless pit of homework, slugs, snails, and puppy dog’s tails. The <a href="http://www.amazon.ca/dp/B0050P2Q70" target="_blank">O3 Kids Pre-School All-In-One Camo Backpack</a> can help organize even the busiest and cluttered student. The front pocket of the backpack is an insulated lunch cooler, so kids no longer have to tote an additional lunch bag or worry about getting apple juice all over their homework. <em>O3 Kids Pre-School All-In-One Camo Backpack With Cooler, $41</em>
Belkin Ultimate Keyboard Case
Back in the day, a parent only had to worry about their child destroying their paper notebooks. These days, your child could come home with a $400 broken iPad because they were playing monkey-in-the middle with it. <a href="http://www.belkin.com/us/p/P-F5L149" target="_blank">The Belkin Ultimate Keyboard Case</a> not only offers aircraft-grade aluminum alloy protection from recess rough-housing or teenage negligence, it also doubles as a thin Bluetooth keyboard. <em>Belkin Ultimate Keyboard Case, $100</em>
Epson WorkForce DS-30 Portable Scanner
Re-writing notes is tedious and time-consuming. Save your child from writer’s cramp with the <a href="http://www.epson.com/cgi-bin/Store/jsp/Product.do?sku=B11B206201" target="_blank">Epson WorkForce DS-30 Portable Scanner.</a> Students can scan class notes, textbook pages, assignments and documents up to 8.5 inches x 14 inches in seconds. The scanner can then turn the file into an email or PDF and upload them directly to cloud services. Correction tools allow students to automatically remove punch holes from scanned images, auto-size documents, and enhance text quality. You can even encourage your college-aged kids to scan their receipts and email them to you – so you can see exactly where your educational investment is going every month. <em>Epson WorkForce DS-30, $150</em>
Students as young as grade school don’t hit the books anymore – they pound the keyboard. <a href="http://www.asus.com/vivo/en/vivoBook.htm" target="_blank">The ASUS VivoBook S550CA</a> is compact enough to still feel as light as a textbook, while giving students new tools such as a Windows 8 interface, touchscreen technology like a tablet, and a 2-second instant “On” power-up button for last minute studying. <em>ASUS VivoBook S550CA, $849</em>
So Young Lunch Boxes
Help your kid get into the A-list lunch table with trendy lunch boxes used by the children of A-list celebrities such as Jessica Alba and Halle Berry. Students can even wear the<a href="http://www.soyoung.ca/" target="_blank"> coated linen lunch box as a backpack</a> or messenger bag. The lunch box/bag also comes with a leak proof insulated insert for easy cleaning. Just make sure your child doesn’t start acting like a movie star diva when toting around their Hollywood lunch swag. <em>So Young Lunch Boxes, $32 </em>
Panasonic Toaster Oven
Parents sending their teenagers away to college for the first time have three key concerns about campus life: 1) Over-partying 2) Under-studying 3) Undernourishment (“Honey, you look so thin, are you eating right?”). You can at least alleviate the stress of worry #3 with the <a href="https://panasonic.ca/english/appliance/kitchen/toasteroven/NBG110P.asp" target="_blank">Panasonic NB-G110P Toaster oven.</a> The mini-oven features near-infrared technology and far-infrared heating elements for quick cooking without preheating – so students can make it to class on time. Clean-up is a cinch (even without mom or dad!) with the removable crumb tray. The only problem is: The toaster oven might make your kid so popular on campus that they’ll be hosting baked parties in their dorm every night. <em>Panasonic NB-G110P Toaster oven, $150</em>
TANYA In Red Rucksack/Backpack
Help your kid go back to school in style with the <a href="http://www.etsy.com/ca/listing/101960136/back-to-school-sale-tanya-in-red" target="_blank">TANYA unisex canvas backpack.</a> Although fashion conscious on the outside, the backpack is practical on the inside — with a spacious main compartment and pockets for gadgets, textbooks, and a laptop. The rucksack can also be used for different looks: students can carry it at the side like a messenger bag, handhold it like a purse, or wear it on their back with the adjustable shoulder straps. WARNING: With a bag this fashion forward, you are essentially giving your kid a hall pass into the land of popularity, and with it, the dangers of becoming a Mean Girl, or Mean Boy. <em>TANYA in Red Rucksack, $57</em>
Hunger Games Pencils
If you’re a cool parent, you’ll know that the "Hunger Games" is a popular young adult-focused book and movie – rather than the name of what happens in the school caf when day-old meatloaf is re-served for lunch. Be the even cooler parent by giving your bookworm some <a href="http://www.etsy.com/ca/listing/109759170/on-sale-made-to-order-hunger-games-book" target="_blank">pencils wrapped in famous quotes from the Hunger Games novel. </a>They even come in a black jewelry box with two hand-stamped mockingbird Hunger Games symbols on them. <em>Hunger Games Book page wrapped pencils, $7</em>
3 Ring Binder Neoprene Tablet Cubbie
If your kid is fortunate to have a tablet, make sure they don’t break it and have to learn from the school of hard knocks. <a href="http://www.overstock.com/Electronics/3-Ring-Binder-NeopreneTablet-Cubbie/7881516/product.html" target="_blank">The 3 Ring Binder Tablet Cubbie</a> is a protective case that fits in all three ring binders – making it less likely that students misplace or forget their expensive tablet. It also features heavy-duty stitching on a soft neoprene material to guard against unintentional scratches, dirt, and moisture. <em>3 Ring Binder Neoprene Tablet Cubbie, $27</em>
Think of the new <a href="http://www.rogers.com/web/content/motorola" target="_blank">Moto X </a>phone as a really smart study buddy for your kid. Your child doesn't even need to touch the phone. It will learn their voice and tell students what they need to know using Google Now technology. The phone is so personable; your kid’s imaginary friend might get a bit jealous. <em>Moto X smartphone by Motorola, $190 on select 2-year plans</em>
If you have a son entering high school, you’ll know it’s a time of transition as fresh faced boys start turning into scruffy young men. Make sure your son doesn't have to go to school with dots of toilet paper on his bleeding baby face by getting him the <a href="http://www.panasonic.com/us/home/" target="_blank">Panasonic Milano Triple ARC blade shaver.</a> It is easy to handle, easy to clean and can take on water — making it the perfect rugged shaver to groom the developing rugged good looks of your young man. <em>Panasonic Milano Triple ARC Blade Shaver, $80</em>
Personalized Notebooks From Blurb.ca
If you have a creative child who craves independence, help them rise above the crowd with a <a href="http://www.blurb.ca/" target="_blank">personalized notebook from Blurb.ca.</a> The notebooks can incorporate their favourite photos, images, quotes or even personal doodles and are created online, then shipped out. Perhaps their work of art might even be worth something someday. <em>Personalized Notebooks from Blurb.ca, starting at $5</em>