2020 in Review: What Parents Spent and Saved This Year

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AJ_Watt / Getty Images

Zoom classrooms. FaceTime music lessons. Socially distant soccer practice. Ball games that are on, no it’s canceled, oh it’s back on but now it’s in a different town, nope it’s definitely canceled. If this sounds like the last 10 months of your life, congratulations! You are a parent in a pandemic.

Read More: Looking Back at the Huge Year for Zoom

This past year, families changed their spending because they had no choice. Curbside pickup and online grocery shopping reduced the chances of that impulsive candy-bar-at-checkout purchase. On the other side of the spectrum, some parents looked to invest in private schools, tutoring or “learning pods” to keep their kids engaged in education while schools continued to stay closed in the fall.

Whether or not they noticed, households in the U.S. had to adjust budgets while adhering to new mandates intended to keep us safe and healthy. Keep reading to see how families made the best of what was thrown their way in 2020.

Last updated: Dec. 14, 2020
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Outdoor furniture and lights, canopy tents and trampolines were some gear purchased this year to outfit a suburban backyard. Overstock.com reported a 225% increase in new customers in the second quarter over the same time last year, much of that attributed to outdoor and home furnishings.

Hot tub and pool installations were also popular, as families swapped their vacation budgets for a stay-at-home splurge instead.

Read More: Can You Believe How Much We Spent in 2020?

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In 2020 families cut down on air travel and took to the roads. Expedia Group reported cancellations exceeded bookings in its second-quarter earnings reports, and airlines saw plummeting sales as air travel stalled earlier in the year.

As stay-at-home orders lifted, many families opted for drive-to destinations and whole-home rentals, which led to a bounce in revenue for sites Airbnb and Vrbo after a dismal first half of the year.

Camping lends itself naturally to social distancing and became the pandemic getaway of choice. According to the North American Camping Report, 24% of the campers surveyed reported being first-time campers, and 82% of those were families.

Find Out: 2020’s Top Road Trip Destinations

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Parents may have saved a few dollars this year if they skipped buying a new lunch bag, school supplies or clothes; however, they likely overspent for pricier items.

Some families chose to switch to private school, with the expectation of seeing improved remote-learning curriculums or even in-person instruction. The average tuition rate for private schools in the U.S. is approximately $11,000 per year. Others have relied on hiring tutors or joining “learning pods” to ensure kids are keeping up with their studies.

Laptops, tablets, headphones, printers, desks and other amenities were some of the higher-priced items families opted to purchase. Keeping kids engaged at home was another challenge parents faced, which allowed online schools to flourish. Outschool, which offers live, interactive classes online, saw a 2,000% increase in bookings between August 2019 to August 2020.

Read More: These Elite Colleges Went Virtual — But Raised Tuition Anyway

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A family of four who saw Disney/Pixar’s “Onward” at a multiplex in March likely spent north of $50 for the experience. When theaters shut down, streaming services filled a void and the theaters have yet to recover.

Disney+, which recently boasted hitting 73 million subscribers in its first year, adjusted its marketing plan by dropping already released films months in advance, and later released new premieres exclusively on the service. A Disney+ subscription costs about $70 a year.

Several streaming services hoping to capitalize on our stay-at-home lifestyle also launched this year, including HBO Max and Peacock.

Meanwhile, live music festivals and concerts were canceled across the globe. Cabin fever must get the creative juices flowing because several high-profile artists, including Beyoncé, Taylor Swift and Bruce Springsteen, dropped surprise new music and movies. Fans saved hundreds by missing the concert experience and spent far less purchasing (or streaming) new music.

Find Out: Streaming Services That Offer the Best Variety of Movies for Your Family

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Food and Dining

For too many families in America, school closures meant a disruption in meals for children. A study from Northwestern University found that food insecurity tripled among households with children.

Even if you were not among the 1 in 4 households that experienced food insecurity this year, your food budget likely changed.

It could have been as simple as fewer trips to the local coffee shop or increases in online grocery or food delivery fees. The USDA reported that in March 2020, food spending was up 19.3% over March 2019 while eating out declined 28.3% for the same timeframe. Dining out expenses continued its decline throughout the spring and summer.

Additionally, some households unexpectedly grew as college kids were sent home after campuses closed.

Read More: We Tried All the Grocery-Delivery Services During the Pandemic, and This Is What We Learned

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Raise your hand if you know someone who added a furry friend to their household this year. As more families found themselves at home, adoption rates for dogs and other animals went up. Dog breeders also reported seeing more interest in puppies this year than ever before.

The price of adopting a shelter pet ranges in the low hundreds, while a breeder may charge a price in the low thousands. Either way the additional upkeep of a pet, including vet visits, food and equipment could set a family back between $100-$200 monthly.

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