Back To School Budget

Back-to-School Budgeting Tips


It’s almost that time of year… back-to-school time!

For parents and guardians of school-aged children, while the transition from summer to a new school year can be exciting, it can also be overwhelming – especially when it comes to managing back-to-school related expenses.

In fact, outside of shopping for the holidays, back-to-school shopping is often the most expensive time of the year for parents, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). The NRF reported that the average American household was estimated to spend around $864 on back-to-school shopping for the 2022-23 school year.

If you’re wondering how this is possible, keep in mind that back-to-school time is not only about new backpacks, notebooks, and pencils. According to Deloitte Insight’s 2023 Deloitte back-to-school survey, families allocate their budgets not only to classroom supplies, but also to supplemental items such as clothing and electronics. Because of inflation, however, 34 percent of parents or guardians plan to postpone nonessential back-to-school purchases for the upcoming school year. Despite this, spending is still expected to be high.

The Deloitte survey goes on to predict that back-to-school sales overall for school-aged children are expected to come in at $31.2 billion, which is down 9 percent compared to last year. This decline in projected spending highlights a potential shift in consumer behavior and economic dynamics, indicating that families are becoming increasingly mindful of their expenditures due to inflation. As adults of school-aged students, this presents a unique opportunity to exercise strategic financial approaches without compromising children’s educational needs.

If you're a parent or guardian looking to shop for back-to-school on a budget, here are some valuable insights to help you navigate through challenging financial times:

  • Set a Clear Budget: Establishing a budget is a crucial step in managing back-to-school expenses. Determine how much you can comfortably spend without straining your finances. Look at your overall monthly budget and allocate a specific amount for back-to-school expenses.
  • Look at Your Current Inventory: Before embarking on any shopping spree, take stock of what you already have. Go through your child's wardrobe, inspect their school supplies from the previous year, and identify any items that can still be used.
  • Prioritize Needs Over Wants: Involve your child in the budgeting process and teach them the importance of distinguishing between needs and wants. While it's tempting to purchase the latest trendy items, focus on essentials first.
  • Use Back-to-School Shopping as a Teaching Moment: This time of the year provides real-world context for kids to learn about budgeting and money management. Working with your child on the back-to-school shopping process can help them learn the value of budgeting and making smart financial decisions. In addition, this is a great way to bond with your child. Plus, after the shopping trip is over, you can take time to reflect with your child. Discuss what went well, what they learned, and how they felt about the experience. Were there any decisions they regret or might approach differently next time? This reflection encourages growth, self-awareness, and a deeper understanding of budgeting.
  • Look for Deals: Take advantage of sales, discounts, and promotions. Not sure where to start? Consider checking out this Time Magazine article for some pointers! Additionally, consider thrifting. You can often find great deals on classroom supplies, clothing, and even electronics at thrift stores.

The transition from summer to the school year is a period of change and growth, not only for children but also for parents. By following our budgeting tips, we hope this helps you navigate the back-to-school season with financial confidence. Remember, effective budgeting not only ensures a smooth start to the school year, but also cultivates valuable financial habits that benefit your entire family.

National Retail Federation

Deloitte Insights

Time Magazine