RALEIGH, N.C. — Experts say the average American will spend over $800 on school supplies this year.

That can take a toll on a lot of families, especially those who are already struggling to make ends meet.

What You Need To Know

  • Experts say the average American will spend over $800 on school supplies this year

  • Families can expect to spend money on new backpacks, lunchboxes, notebooks, clothes and much more

  • Spending for apparel, supplies and technology is expeced to be up 7.5% from last year

Alex Sutherland with Lifeplan Group says families can expect to spend on new backpacks, lunchboxes, notebooks, clothes and much more.

Sutherland has advice to help families budget for school supplies.

Q: What can parents expect to spend this year?

From new backpacks and lunchboxes to notebooks and clothes, everything adds up quickly. It’s no wonder this is one of the most costly times for families.

Spending for apparel, supplies and technology are all expected to be up 7.5% from last year. With inflation still at 8.5%, the rising cost of school supplies is likely going to catch many families off guard.

It’s important to make sure your kids are prepared with what they need, but it’s also important to do so in the most cost-effective way. 

Q: What strategies can families use to save money on school supplies? 

1. Stick to a Budget

Whether you write it down with pen and paper or use an app on your phone, create a budget for your back-to-school shopping. Without a plan in place, it’s easy to overspend. 

After printing out the school’s supply list, decide what you’ll buy and how much you’ll spend, and take your list with you when you go shopping so you stick to it.

2. Take Inventory of Leftovers

A great way to save money off the bat is to take inventory of any leftover supplies from last year. Crayons that were barely used, notebooks with leftover sheets and mechanical pencils that just need new lead — there’s usually plenty of supplies your kids brought home that can be reused.

For more expensive items like laptops, buying refurbished can save money. A lot of well-known stores like Amazon offer deals on used electronics.

3. Buy Extras in Bulk

Your supply list from your school will likely include a wish list of shared classroom supplies, things like extra cleaning wipes or tissue boxes. These items are easy to buy in bulk for a cheaper price. 

If you have multiple kids, split up the bulk box among their classrooms. If you only have one child, keep the extras for your own home. 

4. Follow Your Favorite Stores

You can find deals by following your local stores on social media sites, like Instagram and Facebook.

Many companies send their loyal customers coupon links and advance notices of sales, especially around back-to-school season. If coupon cutting isn’t for you, a lot of stores have apps that keep track of coupons for you, saving you time and money. 

Shop at stores that offer price match guarantees to make sure you’re getting the best deals. You’ll also save time shopping at one store instead of running around to find the deals.

Apps like ShopSavvy allow you to easily scan barcodes to compare prices with other stores.

Q: Are there strategies low-income families can use to afford school supplies? 

Living on a low-income budget is a reality for many families in North Carolina. Nearly 13% of families are living in poverty. Going paycheck to paycheck or struggling to afford basic necessities makes it hard to prioritize school supplies, but there are great programs available to help. 

The  Salvation Army provides low-income families free school supplies, including backpacks and clothes.

Consider reaching out to your child’s teacher or administration, because school districts usually receive funding to provide low-income students with supplies. The school staff is also usually aware of local charities or drives that can help.

Shopping at more affordable stores like the Dollar Store or Walmart can help you keep costs down, and remember that students usually don’t need everything on the supply list all at once. You can spread your purchases over a few weeks or months to help ease the financial burden.

Q: What else do families need to consider financially as we head into the fall? 

Overspending on back to school shopping may not seem like a big deal, but it’s all a part of your overall financial plan. 

Being mindful of both small and large purchases will help you stay on track with your long-term financial goals like paying down debt, building an emergency fund and saving for retirement. 

Many parents put their children ahead of their own financial stability, but in the long run your kids will thank you for being financially responsible.