Families planning for 2016 back to school shopping season

Depending on the survey used, parents should plan on spending anywhere from $600 to $1,000 during 2016 on school supplies. This is a huge expense, and the earlier that families start to plan on this (and budget for it), the better. Even after they do that, many households will still not be able to take on that extra expense.

Survey’s from the National Retail Federation (NRG) show that in recent years anywhere from $600 to $700 is spent. The American Express Spending & Savings Tracker will normally show that over $1000 is spent each year. No matter which survey or data source is used, the fact is that parents can expect to spend hundreds of dollars on school clothing, supplies, electronics, and more. This is very difficult for low income families to budget for.

Anyone with children should take action now. The earlier they start to save in 2016 the better. Parents should also start to look for sales on items that their children may need. Buying school supplies (and really any items) can be done throughout the year. So if the low to moderate income parent is looking for sales and sees a good deal on say sneakers in February, they can purchase the shoes then and put them away until the upcoming school year starts.

As we always say, plan and budget! As we head into the second half of 2016, families now have time to save some of their weekly paycheck for school items. They can shop at garage sales, search for online deals, and watch the Sunday paper flyers for savings. The early they plan on buying that backpack or tablet that their child needs (and not wants!) the better.

That brings us to another point. Only buy what the student needs. If they had a new tablet or backpack bough last year, more than likely they do not need a new one for 2016….or even for the next few years. Some items can just be flat out reused. Just like shopping on a daily basis, it is critical to buy what is “needed” and not what a student “wants”.

Not only do families need to make decisions over needs vs. wants for their children, but they can cutback in other ways as well in order to free up extra money to pay for school supplies. In fact, in recently years, American Express has reported that about 75% of parents are reducing spending on items they personally need so they can afford the school items.

About ½ of households are cutting back on other “luxuries”, such as eating out or trips. This is what budgeting is all about….planning for what the priority is and cutting back where possible. Every dollar saved can help pay for school items.

If families start this as early as possible in 2016, it will definitely help them afford to pay for new everything that a student needs. Whether it is sneakers, or a laptop, paper, or whatever, start the process now. As the back to school season is always an expensive time of the year.

Even after doing this, if more help is needed, apply for assistance early. There are charities and groups that can pass out free school supplies to working poor families. But the demand is always very high, and if you want to apply for your child, it is often too late. You may be able to get not only clothes for school, but also critical educational supplies.

Kids can chip in too. In recent years the National Retail Federation reports that almost 50% of teenagers are helping to buy what they need. Feel free to share this information with your kid! They are paying up to $100 or so dollars for the back to school gear they need. The NRF shows they spend this money on core items, and not just frivolous needs. This trend of the student help to pay some of the costs is expected to continue into 2016 as well.

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