Average Family Spending On Back-to-School Shopping in 2012


Pencils (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Summer vacation. It’s time for children to get a break from studies, hang out with friends, sit by the pool and get into all kinds of trouble. In other words, the summer was a blast, but parents are ready for the fall to start and it is fast approaching. But, before your kids get back to staring at chalkboards all day, you’ll have to survive all the back to school shopping.

This year total family spending will be a record $83.8 billion. How much of this giant bill is your family’s share will depend on how you stack up against the average family spending on back-to-school shopping.

Average Spending on Grade School Versus College

I know that this is going to shock you, but families spend more on a student attending college than one attending grade school (as if the $50 they got for graduation wasn’t enough; humph). How much more?

The average, proud family of a college student will spend $929.35. The average parent with children in grades k-12 is going to cut a check for $688.62.

Women Beat Men…Again…Always

I’ll stop pointing out that women are better at budgeting and shopping than men when I start seeing different numbers in these surveys. The average mother plans on spending $640.42 on their children. Fathers have a budget about 15 percent larger with an average planned expense of $739.75.

The big reason?

More women than men plan on shopping at discount stores. More men than women will shop at department stores and electronic stores. In other words, your dad is getting you a smart phone while your mom is buying you something you actually need in college.

What Percent of Back-to-School Spending Should be Your Child’s?

The good news? This post is all about average family spending on back-to-school spending. Since the definition of family includes the children, there must be a children’s budget and there is.

Kids 13-17 are planning on spending $31.64 or 4.6 percent of the average family budget. Children 6-12 are raiding the piggy bank for $25.63 or 3.7 percent of what total family spending will be.

Your school-aged child is also going to tell what to buy and you are going to buy it. Nearly two-thirds of parents plan on giving their child a 50 percent say in what they buy. The goes to…grandma?

Most Popular Back-to-School Items by Total Expense

Wrapping your child up in cotton fibers is more expensive ever since that society invented brand names. This explains why clothing takes the top spot for largest expense in the average family budget at an average of $246.10. That’s more than a third of the total average budget.

Electronics came in second with a planned budget of $217.88. About 60 percent of parents plan on buying their child something digital.

Bring up the two least favorite gifts? Shoes are a planned expense of $129.20. Meanwhile, paper pens, notebook and backpacks will necessitate a cost of $95.44. Yes, actual school supplied is less than a sixth of the overall average budget.

All snark aside, back-to-school shopping is a big expense and you definitely don’t need to spend as much as the average family if you know how to plan and shop. You can keep this year’s shopping off the monthly credit card bill by starting early, looking for deals and cutting coupons.

$700 is excessive. Be a smart shopper and save the difference for college tuition.

Is the average family back-to-school bill excessive? How does your back-to-school budget compare? What should families do to keep their budget slim and manageable?

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  1. says

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  2. says

    I know this year will be expensive for us! My son is going to need an entirely new wardrobe this year. He’s growing like a weed! I am just trying to look for good deals on clothes at they come around.

  3. says

    Glad my kids are grown! Back to school used to be worse on our budget than Christmas…

    I was glad to see you included the part about kids buying some of their own stuff. I think it is a good idea for kids to have an increasingly large responsibility to provide for themselves as they grow older – either by increasing allowance and requiring them to budget in things from the increase that you would normally pay – or by helping them earn money otherwise and setting expectations that they will start and gradually increase spending on themselves for necessities you would otherwise provide.

    Teaches them all kinds of great money lessons.

    • John says

      I started paying for my school supplies, clothes, etc. at 16 when I had a part time job. The funny thing? I wanted to, because I wanted to start being independent. I rarely see this in newer generations.

  4. says

    Are those numbers an average per family, or per child? I’d say they’re pretty close to what I saw, per child, except for in university it was definitely more than a grand most falls.
    For example, my brother gets shin splints pretty bad and therefore has to get new runners every 6 months are so. Good ones are usually over $150 unfortunately.

    • John says

      These are per family. I was hoping for some per child statistics, but none were to be found. I did note that the median family in the survey had but one school aged child though. So I’d imagine this budget is more like 1.5 children. I know how the shoe scene goes; they are really pricey. Especially if you are buying the newly released sneaker.

  5. says

    I don’t get the average costs that kids spend on school supplies total. Why is it any amount at all? I buy my kids everything they need for school, including clothing. Now, maybe if my kids said they “needed” a watch for school or stupid bracelets that they’ll wear for 2 days before abandoning the trend…but actual school supplies? All provided by us! Maybe I’m just not reading this right! :) It’s possible…it’s been a long week!

    • John says

      The survey did not include a question for why kids are purchasing. However, I”m almost certain that they are planning on making purchases on things that their parents won’t buy for then; aka some stupid bracelets 😉

  6. says

    I think the cost is fair enough. Also I would associate this spending with summer tasks they perform when I have my kids. Bullying for the lack of things gives rise to the demand. Schools should and must see an end to bullying.

    • John says

      I like how you link bullying to the family budget. It really goes to show you that it is worth it for school to spend money to deal with bullying in order to save families stress and money.

  7. says

    I don’t have kids yet, but I’m already scared of the day that I do and have to buy them school clothes! Yikes. Thanks for enlightening the unaware, John.

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