Parents preparing their back-to-school budgets with caution

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2013_back_to_school_blog_iconIt’s true that there’s never a dull moment in retail. After one exciting holiday or “season” ends, another one begins. And with temperatures this hot, it can only mean one thing: back-to-school is here!

July kicks off what is well-known in retail as the second biggest shopping time of the year, and while children may be reveling in the fact that they can sleep in every day, parents are already chomping at the bit to get their children out of bed and back into school.


But with every back-to-school season comes the added responsibility for parents to open their wallets to meet their growing children’s needs. Among those needs: new denim pants, shoes, backpacks, pencils and more. Last year, families with children in grades K-12 spent nearly $690 on school-related items, and as an expenditure that can rarely be classified as discretionary, there’s no question parents are eager to find any way possible to keep costs down.

After years of lackluster economic growth, it’s fair to say some households have already adapted to a certain lifestyle when it comes to budgets and expenses. And, when it comes to back-to-school spending this summer, retailers will likely see much of the same.

In a recent survey conducted by BIGinsight, nearly 77 percent of families with school-aged children say the state of the U.S. economy will impact their back-to-school spending plans. While this is down slightly from the 80 percent this time last year, it’s clear that these consumers still feel the pressure.

Parents this summer may even put the onus on their children to help with school expenses: one-quarter of families with students in grades K-12 (25.7%) will ask their children to dig through their closet and look under their bed to find items they can reuse for the upcoming school year, up from 23.5 percent last year. Others will head to the Internet to compare prices and seek out deals to get the best bang for their buck (18.4% vs. 16.8% last year).

The survey found parents will also look to coupons (36.7%) and purchasing generic products (36.9%) to save some money while shopping for school items. The economy, however, isn’t only impacting their purchase decisions; many say they are compensating for the impact the economy is having on their household by cutting back on extracurricular activities (12.7%) and choosing whether their child goes to public or private schools (6.6%).

It remains to be seen what families will spend on school items this year, but one thing is clear – the economy remains a big concern for many Americans.

Chart: How US economy is impacting back-to-school spendingDescription: Tags: Author: charts powered by iCharts

Download complete results of the back-to-school and back-to-college economic survey. NRF’s 2013 Back-to-School/College surveys will be released in mid-July. View sample charts at NRF’s Retail Insight Center.

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