What is the average family spending on back-to-school shopping this year?

Another poll on USAA recently asked,

“What will the average family spend on back-to-school shopping this year?”

The choices:

  1. $167
  2. $490
  3. $606
  4. $732

What say you?

This is how the votes played out when I cast mine today:

Your vote $490
Your vote $606
Your vote $732

And the winner is….


“According to a recent study by the National Retail Federation, the average American family will spend $606 on clothes, shoes, supplies and electronics for children in grades K-12. Total back-to-school spending for 2010 is expected to reach $21.35 billion nationally, and when you add college, that figure skyrockets to $55.12 billion.”


Makes my $142.99 seem downright paltry. Of course, I didn’t have any shoes, clothes, or even so much as a calculator in that amount. (Hey, that’s what fingers are for, eh?)

I’m not sure what “electronics” would be included in that amount: ipods? Notebooks? Calulators? They can run expensive for the die-hard geek. (And I mean that with all my love.)

Shoes? Clothes? Now we’re probably talking. If parents are shopping regular retail for “must-have” name-brand clothing, that will bring up the numbers and fast: for every parent spending $50 on second-hand “must-have” name-brand clothing, another one is spending $500, I’m sure.

How are your school expenses adding up now that the year is actually underway?

My kids have been in school for almost two (incomplete) weeks now. I still haven’t spent any extra on clothing. Although I am about to pull out their winter stock and access the situation. I guess I don’t do “back to school shopping” for clothes because I shop clearance items throughout the year; it would be very difficult for me to judge an exact amount on a full season of clothing for one child.

I did buy new shoes for Olivia and Peter this year. Total: $34. Ooch. That’s a lot for me to spend on…. well, anything my kids wear, anymore.

My teenager is still responsible for budgeting for his own clothing out of his allowance. (And yes, he still gets $30/month.)

I did buy him a slick-type athletic jacket and pants (what do you call that stuff?) at Goodwill the other day: as per our allowance agreement, the parents purchase items deemed necessary for sporting activities. Conner has decided to do rowing this Fall (yes, rowing!) and he’s going to need something to wear over his work-out clothes before and after practice once the weather cools off. That outfit put me back about $4.69 with tax.

The cost of Rowing? That’s another post. Hint: it ain’t cheap.

So add another $38.69 or so to my previous total of $142.99…. $181.68 is my new (approximate) total for back-to-school shopping for three kids. What’s yours?

(Oh — and still no glue sticks.)

16 thoughts on “What is the average family spending on back-to-school shopping this year?

  1. I just have one child left in school she’s a senior now. We home school and I just paid the tuition of $2350 for this year. We don’t have to buy school clothes, but we did buy about $50 work of school supplies.


  2. WOW! That’s a lot of money! You definitely bring up a good point, parents have to hold a budget and control the expenses when it comes to this time of the year. Buying clearance clothing is a great tactic, as well as reusing some of last year’s items (I know I did that when I was in school). Although it might not be “cool” for kids to repeat some of last years clothes and school supplies, that will teach them to live a frugal lifestyle, and avoid the necessity of buying new items all the time. Thanks for sharing and inspiring parents to take control of their personal finances.


  3. The school supplies were about $150 for two kids. They are both in high school now. I spent some more on clothes that they would have needed anyways. Not a lot, but some. The biggest hits come with the back to school activities: hockey, scouts, band etc. Those run high. very high.


  4. I also have not purchased clothing. It’s still warm enough for summer clothes, and I also have to asess his needs by going through our stock-pile of hand-me-downs before I purchase anything new. We did buy shoes, but only because he lives in Crocs and flip-flops all summer, and those are not allowed for P.E., so he was in need of sneakers. I got these with a coupon at the Shoe Department, still spending more than I had hoped (but less than at Stride Rite!) Backpack and shoes=$43.00 plus the school supplies that I had purchased through the summer at deeply discounted prices. Waaaaay less than $100, even if you factor in the clothes that I will possibly purchase. I bought one of those $50 Gap certificates from Groupon for only $20, since I had my original $5 sign-up bonus in my account. I love saving money!


    jolyn Reply:

    I saw that Gap ad! But didn’t get one. :( Oh, well- I love my second-hand stores! I just assessed my kids’ winter clothing, and we’re pretty good to go for awhile, with stuff I’ve bought throughout the year as I came across it. We’ll see how much they grow…


  5. I don’t know if there’s something wrong with me but… I think I spent around $150 for one kid for school stuff for this year. I don’t really consider clothes to be back to school items since I will buy stuff during the year if I spot a great sale or if kids just wear through or grow out of shoes etc. We did pick up a really great backpack from Columbia on sale for $20 because it’s the kind of quality that should last a number of years. There’s such a benefit once a kid gets a bit older and can actually wear through things rather than just outgrowing them all the time.


    jolyn Reply:

    Investing in a good backpack is definitely worth the cost. We spent $50 on our teen’s backpack over four years ago, and he’s still using it. It’ll last him through high school, and he’s just now a freshman.


  6. We are at just about $400 right now for 2 kids. That is not including their first day of school outfits (a gift from Grammy).

    Shoes – 2 pairs of sneakers, 1 pair of boots, 1 pair of dress flats (about $140!!)

    Clothes – 6 pairs of jeans, socks for each (their feet GREW, 2 skirts, 1 top, 1 pair of sweat pants ($60!)

    School supplies – 2 new lunch boxes, 2 water bottles, new eco friendly sandwich bags, and all the “usual” supplies (pencil box, folders, etc). ($200!!)

    They will need more clothes as the weather gets cooler, but we are ok for now. And unfortunately, Sassy will need a new winter coat. I bought her one last year in hopes she would get 2 years out of it….and apparently it was “cheaper” than I thought, and fell apart.


    jolyn Reply:

    I’m literally getting ready to shut this computer down and go up and cull through my kids’ winter stuff to see where we’re at — I’m so thankful for the second-hand stores here! I can usually get more than one coat for my daughter so she has options for different weather (wet, cold, freezing) and so one coat doesn’t get all the wear. I’m going to miss my thrift store and goodwill when we move…


  7. Well on school clothes I did really good. I spent 115.00 on one child. That was for five pair of shorts and five shirts with collars, Two packs of socks and two packs of underwear and one pair of tennis shoes. I used Target coupons for clothing also. The other little guy had plenty of clothes due to the fact that brother had outgrown clothes. The public school we go to here had a very short list. 2 folders plastic with prongs (.75 each) , 1 pack of crayons by crayola (25 cent from walmart), 2 pink earsers (79 for 2 pack), 1 primary marble compostion book (1.49) , 1 pack of number two pencils (1.75) and a pencil holder (1.50), a pair of scissors (1.50)and that was IT. The other little guys PRE K DID NOT need anything at all. They had more than enough supplies and if they need anything during the year they will email us.

    So WE were very very lucky.


    jolyn Reply:

    That is quite good! And socks and underwear are expensive, aren’t they? It’s like they know we’re stuck buying those new. Ugh.


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