It’s time for back to school shopping, which could mean big expenses for parents. In fact, the National Retail Federation (NRF) reports that back to school expenses have risen 42 percent in the past decade.
Families are expected to spend up to $630.36 on back to school supplies, and nationwide spending is estimated to reach $24.9 billion. But is spending that much really necessary?
“As seen over the last 13 years, spending on ‘back to school’ has consistently fluctuated based on children’s needs each year, and it’s unlikely most families would need to restock and replenish apparel, electronics and supplies every year,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay.
“Parents this summer will inventory their children’s school supplies and decide what is needed and what can be reused, which just makes good budgeting sense for families with growing children.”
However, retailers have begun promoting deals and savings in an attempt to lure parents into their stores. While it may be tempting to buy everything on your child’s back to school list, it might be in your best interest to wait.
According to Kristin Cook, site managing editor for Ben’s Bargains, this year’s back to school summer sales aren’t as beneficial as they have been in previous years.
“The sales aren’t that different from what retailers are doing most of the year.”
“If at all possible, waiting for two weeks until after school starts” is the best approach for stocking up on items such as backpacks or new clothes as retailers will begin inventory markdowns. “Older kids might not have a problem with waiting and using last year’s backpack,” added Cook.
According to an informal poll of teachers by Forbes contributor Vanessa Grady, children bring in useless back to school items on the first day of school. Unless the teacher specifically asks for any of these back to school items, you should avoid purchasing them.
- Mechanical pencils: Children tend to lose these pencils just as quickly as the regular lead kind, which are 10 times less expensive. Furthermore, they are constantly running out of lead.
- Fall clothing: According to the NFR report, 92.7 percent of parents will buy new clothing for their children, spending and average of $217.82. Because fall fashions are new to stores, they won’t be discounted. Although retailers may offer between 10 percent and 30 percent off fall fashions, it’s much less than the discounts offered on summer clothing.
- Trapper Keepers or zip-up binders: These specialty folders cost much more than traditional O-ring binders, take up much more space in a child’s backpack, and perform the same function.
- Index cards: These are not usually used unless assigned for a specific project.
- Whiteout: Most teachers prefer students to use cross-outs on work in order to monitor a student’s progress. Also, if not used, it tends to dry out, turning it into a waste of money. Whiteout tape packs are also expensive.
- Backpacks: Retailers take advantage of this time of year to keep backpacks at full price since the back to school season increases demand. A backpack will typically cost $20 or more, and according to Ben’s Bargains, waiting until the end of September may be the best time to purchase a new one as the back to school season has ended and retailers will begin discounting them.
- Tablet computers: Most tablet sales do not take place until late October and last until early December. Purchasing a laptop such as the Chromebook, which runs for approximately $150, may be a better option for a back to school computer.
- Rolling book-bags for smaller children: Teachers simply don’t have enough space to store these bulky carrying cases, and they can’t be hung up in classrooms. Most small children don’t need to carry that many school supplies to begin with, so purchasing an expensive rolling backpack won’t be more beneficial to their backs and posture.
So what do teachers recommend should be purchased for back to school?
“All kids need on the first day at the high school level, in my opinion, is a notebook, pen and pencil and a folder to store handouts,” says Jess Burnquist, an English teacher at Combs High School in San Tan Valley, Arizona. She adds that “deodorant is good” to buy for growing kids as well.
Other teacher-recommended back to school items include healthy snacks, hand sanitizer, and tissues.
Know of great deals for back to school? Share your shopping tips and help other parents get the best bang for their buck this back to school season.