How Much are we Really Spending on Back to School Costs?

How Much are we Really Spending on Back to School Costs?

When it comes to returning back-to-school, mothers shed some serious coin to get their children looking good, according to a 2012 poll from and Women & Co.

2012 Survey: We Spend $179 Per Child to go Back-to-School

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As per a poll of 1,000 mothers, 60 percent state that clothes is going to probably be their largest expenditure this season, with 91 percent recognizing they spend more on their kids’ wardrobes to supply everything from day to day apparel to sportswear like sublimated basketball uniforms, compared to their own.   Normally, families intend to spend $131 on clothing and $48 on school supplies, per child, for a total of $179.

The analysis also revealed some other interesting tidbits:

Midwest mothers are thrifty: Mothers in the Middle of the nation–that had been the least inclined to consider these as bargain-hunters–were paradoxically those who were very likely to keep under budget by purchasing kids shoes online.   Moms in the Northeast, however, admitted they were most likely to get carried away and spend more than they need to.

How mothers save:  Over half (54%) of mothers create a back-to-school budget and have the intention of adhering to it, and can do so using many different techniques. Just under half of those surveyed consider themselves “bargain-hunters,” collecting coupons and actively looking for sales; just under 30% are “one-stop shoppers,” visiting only a few retailers to buy all their supplies to save themselves times and a fifth are “early birds,” shopping whenever the sales begin to receive the best selection and buy a pair of kids boots sturdy enough to last the school year.   But despite all their finest efforts to save, 1 in 4 moms still feel they get carried away with back-to-school shopping and buy more than they ought to. Of course, I should clarify this pool only analysed actual shopping and didn’t consider other back-to-school expenses such as online physics tutors, school fees and bus passes.

The most detested back-to-school chore isn’t shopping.  Over half of mothers claim that getting their children back on a reasonable schedule is the worst part of getting back-to-school ready. This was detested more than school registration, start of school events, clothes shopping and school supply shopping

But…. While this 2012 poll is interesting, what’s even more fascinating is the latest study by Deloitte which claims back-to-school expenses are now over $500 per child for 2017. Has there been an almost $320 increase in costs over the last half decade or are these two polls considering back to school expenses differently?

It is probably most likely the latter; however it is still interesting to consider both surveys together; as the Deloitte survey doesn’t consider psychological factors. Here’s my analysis:

Deloitte’s 2017  back-to-school expenses survey

basketball apparel, back to school expenses, back to school costs

2017’s back-to-school shopping season, though not as long as other years, will provide gains for shoppers and retailers.  While parents are spending about as much as Deloitte reported last year, there’s a noticeable shift in where parents are cashing in on sales.   The message to retailers is that it will be first in, best dressed.  Those who begin their sales earlier have typically also reported higher earnings.

Back to school shopping will total an estimated $27 billion this calendar year, according to Deloitte’s survey.  A mean of $501 per child will be spent by parents on clothing, supplies, electronic devices, and gadgets. But, parents who shop sooner likely will spend more.   The survey revealed 60 percent of Americans who shop at back-to-school sales before August will spend about $532.   That’s 16 percent higher than parents who wait until closer to the beginning of school –August or later — to do their shopping.  Parents who leave shopping until later only typically spend $458 per child.  71 percent of all back to school spending happens during an eight-week period from July through August.

If you are a parent that waits until the absolute last minute to complete your back to school shopping, you are not alone. There seems to be a trend of parents waiting closer to the school start date to arrange school related matters; whether it be shopping or starting the search to find a tutor for their child’s worst subjects.

Deloitte’s 2017 survey asked parents about their back to school shopping lists. Clothes and accessories are consuming more of the annual budget with families’ allocating 55% of their total spending in this area.   Parents will spend about $200 on clothing including basketball hoodies, shirts, shorts, pants, jackets, jumpers and casual shoes. Clothing for School uniforms and school approved shoes will end up costing parents 20% of their budget at $104. 14 percent of the total amount spent will go to computers and hardware.

In a victory for traditional retailers, a large proportion of parents – 57%– will physically buy back-to-school items. Most of those, will go for super-chains such as Target and Walmart.  21 percent of shoppers will select the ease of shopping online. Classic department stores will see less traffic this year.  Only 28 percent of shoppers say they’ll visit traditional department stores — down 54 percent from this past year.

There’s a big market of parents who are still unsure of where they will go to purchase back-to-school supplies.  It is calculated that ‘undecided’ shoppers provide $5.4 billion in back to school spending.  A strategy to entice a fifth of undecided shoppers could offer great returns for retailers

Vice chairman of Deloitte LLP, Rod Sides stated, “This segment is up for grabs but likely to go to retailers that draw the customer in early with promotions and digital experiences that make store visits even more attractive, like inventory visibility or buy online/pick up in store.”

Back to school is the second-biggest shopping season in the United States. It covers 53 million children in 29 million households. Deloitte conducted the survey of 1,200 parents who have at least one child in grades K-12.  The survey was conducted from May 31 to June 6.

Whilst Deloitte clearly has the better data it is still interesting to consider whether we are spending too much on getting out children back-to-school ready. While technology has obviously increased the costs, it is also interesting to see parents also seem to be spending more on clothing as well despite shopping at larger retail chains.

Personally, I believe we are spending too much, regardless of exactly how much we are spending.

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