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The Price of Back-to-School Shopping

Back-to-School shopping is almost as big as Black Friday—learn how to save this year.

Ohioans may not be planning to spend as much as the national average on back-to-school shopping this year, but that doesn’t mean the supply run will be cheap.

The back-to-school season has become the second biggest shopping season of the year in the U.S., according to a Deloitte Back-to-School survey. American households were expected to spend about $27.6 billion on clothes and supplies for the new school year in 2018.

In the Ohio Credit Union League’s 2019 consumer survey, 36 percent of Ohioans polled reported they’d be spending between $100 and $300 during their back-to-school shopping trips for the 2019-2020 school year. Another 14 percent plan to spend between $300 and $400, while another 14 percent said they’d spend more than $400.

That could mean the average Ohioan’s back-to-school shopping trip isn’t quite as expensive as that of most Americans. According to a survey from the National Retail Federation, the average U.S. household planned to spend $685 on back-to-school clothes and supplies in 2018.

Still, Ohioans seem to be feeling increased pressures to spend before a new school season. In the Ohio Credit Union League survey, 85 percent of respondents agreed that parents are spending more on supplies for the classroom than in the past.

That’s not an unfair assessment. The National Retail Federation has been tracking the cost of back-to-school shopping since 2003. The data shows that ten years ago, Americans were expected to spend about $17.4 billion on back-to-school shopping, that’s $10.2 billion less than they were expected to spend last year.

Fourteen percent of Ohio Credit Union League survey respondents try to curtail back-to-school costs by shopping year-round for deals on clothing and supplies. Most respondents, 71 percent, said they try to find the best deals once they know what their children will need for the new year.

Nationally, 62 percent of parents plan to begin back-to-school shopping before August, according to the Deloitte survey. But the study also shows that planning ahead might not be the best strategy, as parents who begin shopping early tend to spend an average of $100 more than shoppers who get a later start.


Tips to Saving on Back-to-School

  • Check your house before you shop. Before spending on new school supplies, search around your home for supplies left over from last year. Also, consider sorting through your children’s closets before purchasing back-to-school outfits. There may be no need to hit the department store if your child can still fit into most of his or her clothes from the previous school year.
  • Focus on big-ticket item savings first. Your child may require big-ticket items, such as electronics, for back to school. While it might be tempting to price-check every pencil case and glue stick on the list, you’ll save more money if you spend your time searching for the best deals on more expensive items.
  • Check out the dollar store. Consider purchasing general items – such as pencils, glue, and markers – at your local dollar store, rather than at a big box store. You’ll save a few extra bucks you could put toward new clothes or bigger ticket items.
  • Follow stores on social media. Many stores will send followers coupon links and advanced notice of sales via social media. MoneyCrashers suggests following these Twitter accounts for back-to-school savings: Amazon (@amazondeals), (@coupons), Staples (@Staples), Office Max (@OfficeMax), Target (@Target).
  • Avoid impulse buys. With your budget in mind, make a list of what you need for the new school year before hitting the shops. Explain to your kids the importance of sticking to the list and try to avoid purchasing items just because they’re considered “trendy,” as they’ll likely also be more expensive.


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