Parents, prepare to fork over more cash for school supplies this year than last. And if you’re set on shopping at certain stores, you may pay even more.
According to data from the National Retail Federation, the average family with children in kindergarten through high school will spend $669.28 on back-to-school shopping, including classroom supplies, electronics and clothes this year, up roughly 5 percent from last year; the largest spending increases will be seen for electronics like laptops (up 7 percent) and school supplies (up 12 percent).
The retail federation says the increase in part is driven by broader economic improvements, which make consumers feel comfortable spending more. Another factor: Schools are increasingly asking parents to contribute to classroom supplies by purchasing sanitary products like hand wipes and tissues, which means that the average school-supplies shopping list now includes 18 items, up from 14 a year prior.
One of the best ways to save money is to shop the “door-buster” style back-to-school deals offered at a range of stores, ranging from big-box retailers to drugstores and electronics stores, says Sara Steigerwald, founder of Sisters Shopping On A Shoestring and a deal hunter for Savings.com. Different stores are likely to offer super low prices on different supplies to get parents in the door, notes Stephanie Nelson, the founder of CouponMom.com.
Shoppers Flee Physical Stores
Retail traffic has continued an unrelenting slide in the U.S., dropping even as the weather improves. As a result, the industry is slashing store growth from malls to drugstores.
“The trick to back-to-school savings is to be able to shop over a couple of weeks so you can take advantage of all the best deals,” says Steigerwald. You can watch for the lowest prices by checking out your newspaper circulars or using a browser-add in like PriceBlink—which pops up when you’re shopping online and tells you if an item is priced less elsewhere. Apps like Coupons.com, CouponSherpa and RetailMeNot can help you combine these offers with coupons.
But, as Nelson points out, many parents don’t want to have to go through all that trouble. Instead, they want to shop at one or two stores—or simply go online — and then wash their hands of the whole business. If you fall into that group, here’s where you should — and shouldn’t — go shopping.