Back to School: Average Cost of Supplies Revealed

average cost of school supplies

Get ready, parents! The much-anticipated back-to-school season is here, bringing with it a wave of excitement for eager little learners. This year, as we prepare to send our kids back to the classroom, there’s a challenge that demands attention — skyrocketing costs. Brace yourselves, as this time, the back-to-school expenses are expected to hit your wallets harder than ever.

What’s the average cost of school supplies?

According to the National Retail Federation, families can expect to spend an average of $890 on back-to-school supplies this year. The surge in costs can be attributed to various factors, with inflation playing a significant role in the price hikes. The growing reliance on electronic devices, such as computers and tablets, has added considerable weight to the financial burden. 

According to a survey conducted by YouGov and CNET Money, 43% of shoppers plan to use financing to cover the expenses of the upcoming school year’s supplies.

Why is it important to know the average cost of school supplies?

It’s smart to be proactive and plan wisely, as school supplies constitute a necessary expense. Being caught off guard by unexpected costs can lead to financial stress and strain. Planning ahead and having a clear understanding of the anticipated expenses allows parents to know what to expect, budget effectively, make informed purchasing decisions, and ensure a smooth and financially prepared start to the new academic year.

How to estimate the average cost of school supplies

With a little preparation and the right information at hand, back-to-school shopping can be more manageable and stress-free for both parents and students. Here is how you can estimate the average cost of school supplies:

1. Make a list

Start by creating a comprehensive list of all the required supplies  needed for school or particular classes. Walmart offers a convenient feature that allows you to search for your school’s supply list, streamlining the process of identifying required items.

2. Research and compare prices 

Begin by checking prices at both physical stores and online platforms. Once you’ve gathered price information, take the time to compare various options. Look for discounts, promotions, or bulk deals that may affect the overall cost. Identifying cost-saving opportunities ensures that you can get the necessary supplies without overspending.Once you’ve gathered price information, take the time to compare various options. Look for discounts, promotions, or bulk deals that may affect the overall cost. Identifying cost-saving opportunities ensures that you can get the necessary supplies without overspending.

3. Calculate quantities 

Estimate the quantities of each item needed for the entire school year. Consider the requirements of each class and the expected wear and tear of certain items. Multiply the quantity by the price of each item to get an individual total cost for each supply.

4. Sum up the costs 

When it’s time to get the school supplies, make sure to sum up the costs. That means adding up all the prices of the individual items to get the grand total — the overall estimated cost of everything you need. Knowing this magic number helps you plan your budget better and avoid nasty surprises at the checkout counter. 

5. Consider additional expenses 

Beyond the standard school supplies, it’s crucial to account for any additional expenses that might arise. These could include school uniforms, sports equipment, art supplies, or technology requirements specified by the school.

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Tips on how to save for school supplies

By implementing some money-saving strategies, you can make the most of your budget and still get everything your child needs. 

1. Buy only what you need right now

Avoid the temptation to stock up on school supplies that your child may not immediately require. Stick to the essentials listed by the school, and purchase additional items as needed throughout the year. 

2. Purchase refurbished electronics

When it comes to electronic devices like laptops or tablets, consider buying refurbished models. Refurbished devices are often significantly cheaper than brand-new ones and are carefully tested and certified to ensure quality performance.

3. Reuse or repurpose old school supplies

Before hitting the stores, take inventory of any school supplies from the previous year that can be reused or repurposed. Items like backpacks, binders, and calculators can often withstand another year of use, saving you money on replacements.

4. Wait for holiday sales

Keep an eye out for back-to-school sales during major holidays like Labor Day or the holiday season. Many retailers offer discounts and promotions during these periods, allowing you to grab great deals on school supplies.

You may also want to take advantage of sales tax holidays and tax-free days in certain states to save on their back-to-school purchases.

5. Use a cash-back site

Consider using cash-back websites or apps when shopping for school supplies online. These platforms offer cash rewards or discounts for purchases made through their links, helping you save money on your overall expenses.

6. Consider getting a student loan

If you’re facing substantial back-to-school costs that strain your budget, explore the option of a student loan. Some financial institutions offer low-interest loans specifically designed to cover education-related expenses. Be cautious and borrow only what you genuinely need, making sure to repay it responsibly.

Cracking the code of affordable back-to-school shopping

Back-to-school shopping can undoubtedly be an expensive endeavor for parents. The National Retail Federation’s estimates of soaring costs may seem overwhelming at first glance. The good news is that there are numerous ways to make this process more affordable and manageable for families.

By being strategic and mindful in their approach, parents can save significantly on school supplies without compromising on their child’s education. Smart budgeting, purchasing only what is needed immediately, and taking advantage of holiday sales and refurbished electronics are all effective strategies to cut down expenses.


Is it more economical to buy school supplies online or in-store?

It depends on various factors, including discounts, shipping costs, and convenience. Online shopping may offer better deals, but in-store shopping allows immediate access to items.

Do school supplies vary by grade level?

Yes, school supplies often vary based on grade level and specific requirements set by teachers. Different grades may have different needs.

Is it cheaper to buy school supplies in bulk?

Buying school supplies in bulk can often lead to cost savings per item. But you’ll want to assess the actual needs and usage to avoid unnecessary excess.

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