Parents spend hundreds of dollars on school supplies. Some even go into debt.

As the new school year approaches, American parents are spending an all-time high on supplies on average, with some families even going into debt to support their children. Behind the spike in spending lie heavier demands on schools, inflation and fears that some students may return to distance education as COVID-19 infection rates rise across the country .

The typical family with kids in K-12 education this year will shell out about $ 850 in school supplies – a record – according to the National Retail Federation, a trading group. That’s an increase of more than 7% from last year, when millions of parents were forced to spend more to prepare for distance education as the coronavirus closed schools. Since the start of the 2019-2020 school year, before the pandemic, parents’ spending on school supplies has jumped 22%, according to the NRF, which surveyed more than 7,700 people.

The new school year begins again in uncertainty as cases of COVID-19 increase across the country, threatening to upend schools’ plans to return exclusively to in-person teaching. Parents believe they need to be prepared for multiple scenarios – face-to-face, hybrid, or entirely remote classes – experts say. Schools are also adding supplies to back-to-school lists that were not needed before the pandemic, such as Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer.

“As if back-to-school shopping weren’t stressful enough in normal times, then you don’t know what school and inflation will be like and have to buy more different things just to prepare,” said Matthew Schulz , chief credit analyst. at LendingTree.

More than one in three parents said schools are asking them to buy more items this year, from hand sanitizer to laptops, according to a recent LendingTree survey. This is in addition to typical basic items such as pencils, markers, notebooks and pencils, according to some school supply lists.

Last year’s shift to distance education taught parents that students need more equipment, such as headphones and computers, said India Hatcher, a 37-year-old mother in Atlanta with a 11 year old son. Electronics is the main reason for the increase in spending on school supplies, according to the NRF. On average, parents will spend $ 21 more on electronics this year, with clothing getting the second-largest increase, an increase of $ 19.

“A child needs a computer at home – last year told us that,” Hatcher said.

And thanks to a summer rising prices of many American products, some basic school items are more expensive this year, causing sticker shock for some parents, reports Omar Villafranca of CBS News.

Go into debt for school supplies

The combination of inflation and longer shopping lists is taking its toll on some families, according to a survey of 1,000 parents with children under 18 by LendingTree. About a third of those polled said they expected to go into debt this year because of the cost of purchasing supplies for the school year, which LendingTree has slightly lower at around $ 500 per household.

“I’m surprised more people are saying they’re going to go into debt for back to school this year” than in 2020 because of financial aids such as stimulus checks and the enhanced child tax creditSchulz said of the financial firm’s findings. “It shows you how many people live near the margins.”


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Parents whose children will rely on hybrid plans at home and at school face the highest back-to-school expenses, LendingTree found. According to the study, about 4 in 10 of these parents expect to go into debt to buy supplies for their children.

“Blended learning can definitely be expensive,” he said. “We have things, laptops to desks, office chairs, and things that are more expensive than a backpack and a lunch box.”

Parents get relief through the enhanced Child Tax Credit, with the IRS sending up to $ 300 for each child under 6 and $ 250 for children between the ages of 6 and 17. The first two payments were made in July and August, with four more scheduled each month. until December. Many parents have told CBS MoneyWatch that they intend to use some of the money for school supplies or study costs.


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