Costs Are Biggest Back-To-School Stress, Parents Say

NEW YORK (MainStreet) —The most stressful part of back-to-school surrounds costs relating to clothing and school supplies, parents say in a new survey.

According to Zulily, 52% of parents said shelling out cash for back-to-school items was the biggest stress, outpacing getting your kids ready for school in the morning, homework and teachers, which were some of the other main causes of stress for parents.

Even as the economy recovers, consumers are still feeling the pinch when it comes to the rising costs. Food prices have been increasing lately, especially meat, wheat, coffee and orange juice, making it tougher for families to fit back-to-school expenditures into their monthly budgets. The National Retail Federation says the average family spent $634.78 on clothing, shoes, supplies and electronics in 2013.

The survey also found that 26% of parents plan to spend more money than they did in previous years. "The school supply lists parents are given are getting longer," says Amy E. Goodman, Zulily's lifestyle editor. Some 60% will spend the same and only 14% will spend less than past years.

For families, each child may have a different shopping list, prompting parents to shop at multiple stores, rather than condensing all of the shopping to a few stores to save time and money.

Adding to stress levels, the shopping season is a bit shorter this year, on the heels of an unusually cold winter, which resulted in more snow days, causing an extended school year.

While retailers have already started back-to-school sales, you may score better deals if you wait towards the end of the season, closer to the Labor Day. "The trade-off is the store inventory may be more limited and you may find items you need are available only in smaller quantities," Goodman adds.

To keep your budget in check, one of the most effective ways to save money is to refrain from repeat purchases. "Take inventory about what you already have from last year and compare that with this year's list," she says. "You don't always have to rush out and buy everything brand new."

Perhaps most eye-catchingly, the survey found that 54% of parents confessed to picking up some clothing for themselves while back-to-school shopping for their kids. Especially when shopping online, if you notice a few items in your cart aren't related to back-to-school, take a few extra steps to search for a coupon code or use price comparison sites to make sure you're scoring the best deal.

- Written by Scott Gamm for MainStreet. Gamm is author of MORE MONEY, PLEASE

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