The Average American Family Will Spend $864 on Back-to-School Essentials, Survey Shows

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  • School is back in session, and many families are headed to the store to stock up on essentials.
  • The average household will spend $864 on K-12 back-to-school supplies.
  • To save money, follow tips such as buying secondhand and refurbished items and leaning on community resources.

Here are some tips to save money on these essential expenses.

For many households, back-to-school season is here. That means it's time to go shopping for school essentials. Many schools ask parents to purchase supplies for the start of the year. But those back-to-school essentials come at a cost -- and it may be more expensive than you think.

If you're not careful, the cost of school supplies can add up fast. For many families, it's a good idea to go into the shopping experience with a shopping list and a budget. If you don't go in with a plan, you could overspend and negatively impact your bank account balance.

Families are set to spend $864 on K-12 school essentials

The National Retail Federation reported that this year's total back-to-school spending is expected to match 2021's record high of $37 billion. In 2020, spending totaled $34 billion, while in 2019 it was much less, equalling $26 billion.

Households with children in elementary through high school plan to spend an average of $864 on school essentials -- which is more than 2021's expected spend of $849. That's a lot of money to spend before the school year starts. How does your back-to-school spending compare?

Six tips for spending less on back-to-school shopping needs

If you're on a tight budget, you're not alone. These tips can help you save as you shop.

  1. Consider buying used clothing. Consignment stores are an excellent place to get a good deal on used clothes. Another option is to buy gently used clothes from other families at yard sales or online. This is a perfect solution if you expect your kids to outgrow their clothes this year due to a growth spurt. New clothing isn't the only option.
  2. Review sales fliers before shopping. Sales fliers are your friend. Compare prices from different retailers and go where the must-have items are discounted. Doing this can make it easier to stick to your budget.
  3. Shop at discount stores. Don't assume that an office supply store or a one-stop-shop retailer is the best place to go. You may be able to spend less money by getting some essentials from discount stores, like Aldi or Dollar Tree.
  4. Delay some purchases. You may be able to get away with waiting to buy some essentials. If you're provided with a supply list, ask your child's teacher if all items need to be brought in during the first week. If not, you may be able to spread out some of the costs by getting some things in the following weeks.
  5. Buy refurbished electronics. If you need to purchase electronics for your kids, compare the pricing on refurbished electronics versus new electronics. You could save a lot of money, and your child likely won't know the difference.
  6. Don't ignore community resources. If you're going through a tough time financially, don't try to do it all alone. Check to see what community resources are available. Many organizations collect backpacks and other school supplies during the summer to help families begin the school year successfully.

We're all looking for ways to reduce spending as we battle record-breaking inflation. Are you looking for other ways to save money? Our personal finance resources offer additional tips.

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