Will You Spend This Much on Back-to-School Supplies?


NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Back-to-school shopping has always been about the clothes and the shoes, but these days it's almost as much about the technology.

The shopping lists get longer and the "required" electronics get more sophisticated – and the average family with children in grades K-12 will need to allocate a bigger budget for back-to-school this year. Adding up the clothing, shoes, supplies and electronics, a typical family will spend $669.28, up 5% from last year, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).

Overall spending will drop slightly to $26.5 billion, but that's only because there are slightly fewer school-aged children in the general population this year. Count college-aged students, and back-to-school spending will top nearly $75 billion.

Technology is getting to be a big pain in the pocketbook. The NRF says shoppers will spend an average of $212.35 on electronic items, up 7% from last year, accounting for $8.4 billion in total spending.

What began as a one-page list is now a website crammed with classroom supply requests, as school districts deal with tighter budgets. Spending on school supplies are expected to increase a whopping 12% over 2013.

Teenagers alone account for $913 million of back-to-school shopping, spending their own money -- but they also guide their parents' buying decisions, too. More than one-third (34.8%) of parents admit that at least half of their back-to-school purchases are influenced by their children.

Young parents, aged 25 to 34 years old, are the highest spending age group – shelling out an average of $822.01 for back-to-school supplies. Saving money is still a high priority, and shoppers surveyed revealed how they plan on cutting back:

  • Buying store brand/generic items for school (34% vs. 32.8% last year)
  • Make do with last year's items (25.6% up from 23.7% last year)
  • Shop online more often to save money (19.6% up from 18.5% last year and the highest percentage to date)

The big-dollar spending comes from families with college-aged children. The typical college student and their family will spend $916.48 on dorm furniture, school supplies, electronics and more -- up 10% from last year.

Technology purchases for college students are predicted to be up 20% from last year while spending on school supplies is expected to increase 19%. Parents and their college students will spend 13% more on apparel and allocate bigger budgets for food items, shoes and personal care items, but a bit less for gift cards this year.

—Written by Hal M. Bundrick for MainStreet

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