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Parents feel pressure to overspend on back-to-school supplies | Money Smart

Ted Rossman with Bankrate.com shared tips to ensure you stay on budget while getting your kids everything they need for the new school year.

PENNSYLVANIA, USA — Parents feel pressured to overspend on back-to-school shopping, just as much as they do around Christmas time, according to a study done by BankRate.com

"Back-to-school has really become a robust shopping season in its own right," Ted Rossman, Senior Industry Analyst at BankRate.com said. 

New clothing, school supplies, and tech products are just some of the items on checklists for back-to-school. On top of that, social media gives parents more pressure to overspend, specifically millennial parents. 

"They want their kid looking and feeling great on their first day," Rossman said. 

Rossman tells FOX43, parents will spend an average of $849 on kids in grades K-12, up 8% from last year. For college students, they'll spend $1,200, up 13% from last year. 

"I think some of it is the desire for something good and something normal and realizing it's been a weird time and hopefully we're coming out of it," Rossman explained. "I do think there's a danger there of always trying to put your best foot forward, always trying to impress other people. I think if we take that too far that can be a bad thing and can lead to a lot of overspending." 

Rossman urges parents to create a budget, stick to it, and involve your kids in the entire process. It can be a teaching tool, he says. 

"Maybe you can splurge in one area but then you've got to cut back on something else," he said. "I think there are good lessons to learn on price comparisons, trade offs, and I really like the idea of involving your kids in the decision making."

Rossman also says parents can use social media and other technologies to your advantage by trying to source free or low cost items on resale items. Don't buy something new if you have leftover supplies from previous school years, either, he says. 

Other tips BankeRate.com offers include:

  • Be crystal clear on how much you can afford to spend in cash. Promise yourself you won’t go beyond that limit. This means budgeting and discussing the budget with the kids in an age-appropriate way.
  • Take stock of what you already have. For example, if you’ve got a dozen empty notebooks, you don’t need to buy more. Talk to other parents about splitting supplies or pooling gently used but good condition supplies that are no longer needed as kids age.
  • Create a shopping list and don’t deviate from it. Monitor the amount you’re spending, as well as how much is left. Have your children join in and let them know the amount you allotted for particular items. This can be an excellent lesson on budgeting, as well as provide freedom for them to choose their supplies. Avoid the pressure to buy early, sometimes it’s better to wait and see what they really need.
  • Prioritize your purchases. Replacing pants that no longer fit is more important than getting a new backpack in the season’s hottest color. Develop an overview of your finances so you can determine the amount you’re willing to spend comfortably. Compare your list of supplies to the budgeted amount and get a sense of how much you can spend and which supplies may not fit into your budget.
  • Save money any way you can. Comparison shop, take advantage of sales, use coupons or online discount codes, and sign up for cash back apps. 
  • Buy used goods, such as textbooks and other items. Thrift shops and second-hand stores often feature gently worn clothing that could come with a designer label.
  • Space out the expense. Start back-to-school shopping months in advance to spread out the financial blow. While this strategy may not work for shoes and clothes, it can be effective for classroom supplies, like folders, pens, or calculators.

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