By Annie Kim
Last Updated: July 25, 2022
Back to School Spending Reaches Nearly $700 Per Household
Four in ten parents expect to spend more on school supplies in 2022 than last year.
After a couple of years of adjusting to at-home schooling and hybrid learning environments, parents of American schoolchildren have something new to deal with — higher prices for school supplies.
Like food, gasoline, and utility bills, the costs for school supplies are rising. Parents are preparing to spend more this year than they did in 2021 to get their kids ready to head back to the classroom. For the second year in a row, we conducted a study of over 500 parents of school-aged children to see how much they expect inflation to drain their wallets during back to school shopping.
- On average, parents expect to spend a total of $697 on school supplies for the 2022-23 school year.
- Almost four in ten parents plan to spend over $600 on back to school shopping this year, compared to just 6 percent of parents last year. Only one in ten parents said they’d spend less than $150 on school-related purchases.
- Almost half of parents are concerned that inflation will impact their ability to buy everything their child needs for school this year.
- A staggering 44 percent of parents plan to seek assistance for back to school purchases. Most said they’d get help purchasing items like backpacks and other classroom items.
Parents expect back-to-school spending to increase dramatically
Overall, parents of children heading into kindergarten through 12th grade expect to spend nearly $700 on items like clothing, pens, backpacks, haircuts, and more for back to school. As prices rise in almost every category due to inflation, they feel that school supplies and services will be no exception.
Last year, more than one in four parents told us they expected to keep spending under $150; this year, only 11 percent said the same. Forty-two percent said they will spend more this year than they did in 2021, and only about 20 percent said they expected to spend less this year.
Per household spending range by year
|$0 - $149||28%||11%|
|$150 - $299||31%||19%|
|$300 - $449||21%||18%|
|$450 - $599||14%||15%|
Among items parents are planning to buy, clothing and footwear will take the lion’s share of the budget, accounting for an average of $160 per child, followed by electronics ($88) and basic school supplies ($63). As students have largely transitioned back to in-person learning, they’re more likely to need to invest in clothing and traditional school supplies, rather than electronics needed for virtual learning.
|Average per child spending on back to school items|
|Basic school supplies||$63|
Many families also use the back to school season to freshen up their children’s hairstyles and check in with the pediatrician. These costs add on to the total amount needed to prepare children for school. On average, parents plan to spend around $23 per child on haircuts and $20 per child on doctor visits before the school year begins.
Nearly 1 in 2 parents very concerned that they won’t be able to afford all supplies due to inflation.
While inflation is no doubt a factor this year, parents’ perceptions of inflation is also playing a role in how much they expect to spend. About 46 percent of parents said they were “moderately" or “extremely" concerned that inflation would prevent them from getting everything on their back-to-school list.
Inflation, combined with the cancellation of many programs like expanded child tax credits, means that many families will simply not be able to make their money go far enough this fall as their children enter the classroom.
|How concerned are you that inflation will impact your ability to buy all of the supplies your child(ren) need this year?|
|Not at all concerned||15%|
|Slightly / somewhat concerned||39%|
|Moderately / extremely concerned||46%|
In light of these concerns, some families will be seeking assistance in order to cover the costs of their childrens’ school supplies.
Getting help with back to school costs
About 44 percent of parents told us they’d be seeking help with defraying some of the cost of sending their kids to school this fall, whether from family, friends, or charitable programs. Each year, many organizations and retailers conduct school supply drives and donations for students in need.
Among those who are participating in events or seeking help, backpack and school supply events are the most popular, as they were last year.
|Back-to-school assistance type (among those seeking any assistance)|
|Backpacks and basic school supplies||69%|
|Clothing or school uniforms||62%|
|Services such as haircuts and physicals||42%|
Take advantage of tax-free shopping events
In several states, sales tax holidays are scheduled to coincide with the back-to-school shopping season. Sixty percent of parents told us they’d be taking advantage of a tax holiday event to help limit their back-to-school spending.
Here’s a look at what’s planned across the country, including limits on tax-free purchases:
|State||Dates||Applicable items and tax-free spending limits|
|Arkansas||August 6 - 7||School supplies
Up to $100 tax free on clothing
|Connecticut||August 21 - 27||Clothing & footwear: $100|
|Florida||May 14 - August 14||Children's books|
|Florida||July 24 - August 7||School supplies: $50
|Illinois||August 5 - 14||Reduced tax rate of 1.25%
Clothing & school supplies: $125
|Iowa||August 5 - 6||Clothing: $100|
|Maryland||August 14 - 20||Clothing and footwear: $100|
|Massachusetts||August 13 - 14||Retail items up to $2,500|
|Mississippi||July 29 - 30||Clothing and footwear: $100|
|Missouri||August 5 - 7||Clothing: $100
School supplies: $50
|New Mexico||August 5 - 7||Clothing: $100
Computer equipment: $500
School supplies: $30
|Ohio||August 5 - 7||Clothing: $75
School supplies: $20
|Oklahoma||August 5 - 7||Clothing: $100|
|South Carolina||August 5 - 7||Clothing
|Tennessee||July 29 - 31||Clothing: $100
School supplies: $100
|Texas||August 5 - 7||Clothing, backpacks, and school supplies: $100|
|Virginia||August 5 - 7||Clothing: $100
School supplies: $20
|West Virginia||August 5 - 8||Clothing: $125
School supplies: $20
Sports equipment: $150
Where to find the best back to school deals
Even if no tax holidays are offered where you live, many major national retailers are offering discounts on clothing, tech, and school supplies. Here’s a look at the best deals this fall:
Old Navy is offering bargains on uniform clothes like pants and polo shirts, as well as extra percentages off certain items with promo codes.
The Children’s Place
Get uniform styles, graphic tees, jeans, and more, with many items offered for as much as 50 percent off normal prices at The Children’s Place.
Kohl’s is offering 25 percent off kids’ socks, up to 30 percent off uniforms and at least 20 percent off backpacks.
In addition to sales on clothes and school supplies, Walmart is an excellent option for back-to-school tech; the store is currently offering an HP Chromebook for under $100.
Parents of college students (as well as K-12 and college instructors) are eligible for Apple gift cards with certain purchases, including iPads, iMacs, and MacBooks.
Stock up on school supplies like notebooks, binders, and markers, which start at 50 cents at Office Depot or backpacks starting at $35.99.
Get school supplies for as little as 25 cents at Target, including backpacks starting at $14.99 and water bottles starting at $6.99.
Get composition notebooks and presentation folders for as little as 50 cents each and block erasers for as little as 75 cents at Staples.
We surveyed 530 U.S. adults who have children attending K-12 schools; our survey was conducted online in July 2022. The median income of the families in our study was between $50,000-$74,999.