Back-to-school shopping expected to be pricier than ever — but there are ways to save

Cost of back-to-school shopping

Cost of back-to-school shopping

Back-to-school spending is expected to reach record highs this year, according to the National Retail Federation.

The NRF estimates households with school-aged children will pay $890 on average for back-to-school items, which is $25 more than last year.

The increase is primarily driven by greater demand for electronics, such as laptops, tablets and calculators, with a record number of consumers planning to purchase these types of supplies this year.

Despite a predicted rise in spending, there are ways for Minnesotans to save, including expanded state tax relief specifically for school supplies.

The K-12 Education Credit and K-12 Education Subtraction are two state programs available to families with children attending kindergarten through 12th grade at public, private or qualified home schools, who have also paid “qualified education expenses” during the year.

The K-12 Education Credit is based on income, whereas there are no income limits for the K-12 Education Subtraction.

You can learn more about both tax relief options on the Minnesota Department of Revenue’s website.

“The cost of school supplies is definitely up,” said Kim Sovell, a retail and consumer behavior expert at the University of St. Thomas. “Parents know that their wallets have been taxed this year and they really are seeing reduced extra money to spend, so I do think they’re keeping their eye out for bargains.”

Sovell said the increased cost of school supplies may also lead families to cut back in other areas.

“People are pulling back on clothing shopping. Typically back-to-school clothing is one of the biggest school-related spending categories and that’s projected to drop 14% this year,” Sovell said.

For families who are looking to save on school supplies, Sovell recommends trying discount stores or off-brand products.

She said placing bulk orders with other families can also lead to deeper discounts for each individual family.

“And then the other thing you can do is ask for price adjustments. When you’re in a store, keep an eye out for what prices are in other stores and ask them to match that price,” Sovell said.

According to the NRF, families are also going back-to-school shopping earlier this year, with 55% of consumers starting their shopping in July.

“I think consumers will bargain hunt, but it is time-consuming to do that. So that’s the choice: Spend the time or spend the money,” Sovell said.

Back-to-school shopping for college students is also expected to be more expensive than ever this year, with the NRF predicting the average student will spend about $1,367 this year, a number that has nearly doubled since the start of the pandemic.