School supplies are more expensive as parents prepare to send their children back for in-person learning

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CHICAGO (WLS) — Many parents may be dealing with sticker shock as they prepare their children to return to school and the prices of many items are on the rise.

I-Team ABC 7 explains what’s driving the increase and offers solutions for families looking to save.

Back-to-school spending is expected to hit a record $37.1 billion this year, according to the National Retail Federation. For many families, rising school supply costs add another layer of stress.

“I had to say repeatedly, ‘I think we have everything we need,'” Christina Kotis told I-Team.

She watches her wallet as she fills her basket with back-to-school supplies and clothes.

“A whole bunch of dress shirts,” she said.

That’s all for her three children who can’t wait to get back to school.

“I was sad because of COVID, I couldn’t see any friends. This year I’m back to school,” said one of Kotis’ children.

But there is a price.

“Generally, I think the cost is going up,” Kotis said — and she’s right.

Consumer experts said prices for backpacks, clothing and tech items were rising. In fact, prices for nearly all consumer goods are up more than 5% from a year ago, according to the latest inflation figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The customer, Michelle Miralda, went straight to the clearance section when shopping for her children.

“I’m not going to the regular section, that’s not what it used to be anymore. I’m going to clearance,” she said.

“We make lists and ask for what you really need and skip the aisles,” Ashley George told I-Team.

Ted Rossman of Bankrate.com explains the price hike.

“Costs go up for a whole bunch of reasons, but they actually come down to disruptions in the supply chain, and then also higher costs. So higher transport costs, higher manufacturing costs are costs that companies pass on to their workers. That’s all evidence of upward pressure on the prices of back-to-school and other items,” Rossman said.

Despite some reports of school supply shortages, the I-Team visited several stores and found that most shelves were full of choices. However, a few with backpacks and planners were starting to look a bit bare, so you might not want to wait until the last minute to get what you really need.

The National Retail Federation said families are expected to pay an average of $848 for an elementary or high school student this year, nearly $60 more than last year. College students will spend an average of $1,200, which is also up $141.

“It’s a good reminder for parents that you may not need to buy everything new. Think about inventorying what you already have around the house or trying to get items at low cost or free from your community friends and family and neighbors,” Rossman said. “They might be happy to share unused items if you were kindly used
items, you know, everything from school supplies to clothes. Pack bags for college kids, you know, maybe you know someone with an old couch or microwave or desk.”

You can also check out thrift stores and online classifieds, like Facebook Marketplace. For electronics and technology, you can save money by buying refurbished items from places like the Apple Store and WalMart. You can also put the brakes on buying everything right away.

“You really don’t need all of this on the first day. A lot of these things will get even bigger discounts after Labor Day and after the first day of school,” Rossman added. “So if you asked the teacher, you know, where do we absolutely need right now and what’s tied into the year so that we can maybe spread the impact and put it into sale.”

The increased demand for school supplies is also triggering a scam alert. The Better Business Bureau said fake websites can target shoppers with fake offers. You could pay and never receive the items. You should only shop from retailers you know and trust and be skeptical of prices that seem too low. Use a credit card in case you need to dispute a charge.

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