Inflation 2022: Has a Rise in Prices Affected Education Spending in the US?

Pupils in school working and drawing in their notebooks.
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Thanks to inflation, this back-to-school season is putting a larger dent in Americans’ budgets than usual as the prices for many goods have increased.

“Back-to-school season is one of the most expensive times of the year for families,” said Oberon Copeland, founder and CEO of Very Informed, which aims to help readers become informed about products and services. “Between new clothes, supplies and tuition, the costs can quickly add up.”

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According to the National Retail Federation, back-to-school spending has increased dramatically since before the start of the pandemic — shoppers are expected to spend $168 more on average compared to 2019, and total spending is up $11 billion.

However, the amount Americans plan to spend on back-to-school shopping this year is just slightly higher than in 2021. Families with children in elementary through high school plan to spend an average of $864 on school items, approximately $15 more than last year, the National Retail Federation found. But this means that with prices higher, parents and students are having to get savvier about how they spend their dollars.

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GOBankingRates surveyed over 1,000 Americans about their back-to-school shopping plans, and many reported that inflation is affecting how they will spend their money this year. Here’s a look at how shoppers are adjusting, plus, the best ways to actually beat inflation when doing your back-to-school shopping.

How Inflation Is Affecting Back-to-School Shoppers

Among the Americans surveyed who will be back-to-school shopping this year, 35% said that due to inflation, they will be looking for sales and coupons more often. Other ways shoppers are dealing with the effects of inflation include switching to cheaper alternatives (30%), purchasing store brands more than they normally would (13%), shopping at discount stores (11%) and cutting back in other places to afford school supplies (10%).

In addition, many Americans will simply be buying less. Over 1 in 5 said they will buy less clothing this year and 19% said they will be reusing supplies from past years.

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The Best Ways To Fight Inflation When Back-to-School Shopping

Very Informed’s Copeland believes that the majority of back-to-school shoppers who will be scoping out sales and coupons are on the right track when it comes to fighting inflated costs this year.

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“Many stores offer significant discounts on back-to-school items in the weeks leading up to the start of the school year,” he said. “Many retailers also offer coupons that can be used on back-to-school items. By taking advantage of these offers, families can save on their back-to-school shopping.”

Copeland also recommends shopping for secondhand supplies — something only 5% of shoppers said they plan to do this year, according to the GOBankingRates survey.

“It is often possible to find used items in good condition at consignment shops or online,” he said.

Brian Jones, CEO and founder of Best in Edmonton, a products and services review site, recommends taking stock of your existing supplies and reusing what you can, which 19% of shoppers said they plan to do this year.

“Parents often purchase items for their children that already exist at home, such as pencils, papers, rulers, coloring materials, etc.,” he said. “Instead of spending money on items that might be unnecessary, consider making use of some resources from home.”

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Jones also recommends spreading out your purchases over time so that you don’t have to take on debt.

“The first day of school does not mean that you have to buy everything that your child needs for the entire school year,” he said. “Be sure to purchase the necessities first; then, as the school year progresses, purchase all the other items as you need them.”

Another tactic to save on back-to-school needs is to comparison shop.

“When you get everything from one retailer, you buy your supplies on their terms and will have to agree on their prices,” said Alec Pow, CEO at ThePricer. “Give school supply shopping enough time and spread out your search across multiple retailers, both online and physical. Compare prices and only take the money out of your pocket when you know for sure that you have found the [lowest] price.”

Trae Bodge, smart shopping expert at TrueTrae.com, recommends buying supplies in bulk.

“If you have a membership to Sam’sClub, Costco or BJ’s, now is the time to use it, as buying wholesale can be up to 40% less expensive than buying retail,” she said. “Your wholesale club should have ample stock of items like folders, pens and notebooks. You may even find backpacks and apparel! If you don’t have a wholesale club membership, look for bulk pricing on Amazon or at an online wholesale club, like Boxed.com, where no membership is required.”

The GOBankingRates survey found that only 2% of back-to-school shoppers plan to shop at Costco for their supplies, which means that many will be missing out on this savings opportunity.

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About the Author

Gabrielle joined GOBankingRates in 2017 and brings with her a decade of experience in the journalism industry. Before joining the team, she was a staff writer-reporter for People Magazine and People.com. Her work has also appeared on E! Online, Us Weekly, Patch, Sweety High and Discover Los Angeles, and she has been featured on “Good Morning America” as a celebrity news expert. 
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