- After two grueling, pandemic years of school, parents looked forward to a normal year.
- But instead, they are dealing with a different pressure: inflation.
- Parents, pressured by rising food and fuel prices, are now suffering from the rising costs of going back to school.
Far fewer parents this year said they could afford to shop for their children back to school without any problems, likely due to rising inflation and the end of pandemic stimulus measures.
Only 36% of 2,178 American parents surveyed said they could afford to shop for their children back to school, down from 52% last year, according to a recent Morning Consult poll, which also found that more than 37% of parents this year are Their stress about back-to-school shopping — up from 32% last year.
Last year, parents took advantage of stimulus checks and child tax credit payments, which lapsed, and the savings accumulated during the pandemic.
“Now, those savings are being depleted as the burden of inflation increases,” said Claire Tassin, retail and e-commerce analyst at Morning Consult. Morning Consult conducted a survey in May and June of parents of school-age children planning shopping for the 2022-2023 school year.
In the 12 months through June, consumer inflation rose 9.1%, the largest increase in more than 40 years.
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How does inflation affect back-to-school shopping?
School supplies are seen as a necessity, so many parents can be expected to cough for them, even if they cost more this year.
Since early May, the share of shoppers returning to school who plan to spend more than $500 on their children’s supplies has increased to 25% from 11%, mostly due to inflation, according to Morning Consult.
Early shoppers, having already seen their children’s supply lists and prices, are more likely to report that they will spend more than last year, Tassin said, confirming this year’s inflation toll.
The average amount spent per child is up 8% to $661 from last year and 27% from 2019, with 60% of 1,200 parents surveyed saying they spend more because prices are higher, according to a Deloitte poll. . The survey was submitted online between May 20 and June 2.
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How can parents extend their money?
Some smart parents shopped for Amazon Prime Days earlier this month.
“With Prime Day moving into July from June, it’s closer to going back to school, so consumers have benefited from that,” said Vivek Pandya, principal analyst for digital insights at Adobe. “We saw a slight rise in boys’ and girls’ clothes,” for example.
But if you miss your online shopping days, don’t worry. Analysts say consumers can expect sales to continue into August as retailers compete for budget-conscious shoppers. Many may also trade wherever they can to private brands and see second hand and dollar stores.
Seventeen states across the country either have or plan to have tax breaks on back-to-school sales. Times and rules vary from state to state, so check the Tax Administration Association website to plan your shopping trips.
In most cases, sales tax holiday is eligible for online orders, as well as in-store purchases, said Colin McCreary, consumer financial advocate at Credit Karma.
McCreary recommends using tools that scan the web for low prices and other offers that can help you take advantage of online deals as they happen.
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How will parents pay for it?
The usual tactics — like cutting expenses elsewhere, diving into savings, using credit cards, take advantage of buy now and pay later, and other payment options — will be in play this season, said Vivek Pandya, principal analyst for digital insights at Adobe.
A survey conducted by Qualtrics for Credit Karma from July 7-9 found that 42% of parents with children at school plan to take on debt to pay for school shopping. She said she surveyed 1,045 US adults over the age of 18.
“Just over half of parents who say they plan to take on debt to pay back to school purchases expect to incur more than $300 in debt, while one in five take out more than $500 in debt to pay off things like clothes and other school supplies,” McCreary said.
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What does this indicate for spending forecasts?
Tassin said consumers may have reached a breaking point, which could mean spending cuts in time for the holidays.
“Back-to-school shopping is inevitable, but if prices don’t start dropping on essentials like gas and groceries, we will see more budgets squeezed,” Tasin said. “Already, we’re seeing more and more people making the tradeoffs – buying smaller packages, cheaper brands, putting off purchases. So far, they’ve had the flexibility to accommodate price increases, but we can’t expect them to continue to pay inflated prices.”
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Or it could work a little differently. Pandya said consumers are still fickle after two years of dealing with shortages and may only buy items they see on the holidays.
Supply chains have improved, but remain fragile with the COVID-free China policy that has imposed intermittent shutdowns and raw materials scarcity. Candy maker Hershey’s has already warned of a candy shortage ahead of Halloween and the end of the year.
Medora Lee is USA TODAY’s Money, Markets and Personal Finance Correspondent. You can reach her at [email protected] and sign up for her free Daily Money newsletter for personal financial advice and business news every Monday through Friday morning.