School Supplies Cost Families $600 Annually

Consumer Confidence may be down, but that hasn’t stopped parents from spending on school supplies. According to a survey completed by the National Retail Federation, the average American family will spend $606.40 on clothes, shoes, electronics and other back-to-school items this year, up from the $548.72 budget in 2009.

Total spending on school-aged children in grades K-12 is expected to reach $21.35 billion. If you add college students to the mix, back-to-school expenditures will total $55.12 billion. The NRF gets its data from U.S. population figures.

While they may be spending more, parents are still looking for ways to save. According to the NRF, 44.3% of Americans said they would buy store brand or generic products to keep costs down, compared to 41.7% last year. Additionally, more parents plan to comparison shop online (30.3% now vs. 26.4% in 2009). You will be happy to know, however, that there are ways to spend less than the estimated national average.

For example, Beth Kendrick, a parent in North Carolina, spent $65 on her fifth-grader’s school supplies by shopping early.

“I look at the circulars for deals and always shop before Aug. 15,” she tells MainStreet. “I found 15-cent folders, 50-cent rulers, a $15 zipper binder, 50-cent pencils, lots of pens, paper, colored pencils and markers for $1.There [is] no crowd and a great selection.”

Additionally, Pennsylvania mom Leah Ingram, who has two teenage daughters, suggests that families buy in bulk and split the cost along the way. Other parents suggest speaking to your child’s school as they sometimes offer programs that save families money and/or time.

New York resident Kim Lundgren was able to purchase school supplies for her daughter through her Westchester County school at the end of the 2009 school year. The supplies, which are exactly what the school requires, are then delivered to the family’s house before the student starts in the fall. Virginia resident Berna Diehl’s children go to an elementary school that offers a similar program.

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