How Much Does it Cost to Go Back to School?

How Much Does it Cost to Go Back to School?

By: Mary Ferguson

The end of summer is upon us as parents and students prepare to return to the classroom, which for many families can put additional pressure on their budget.

Recent studies by Deloitte Consulting found that the cost of back to school shopping is $519 USD or about $700 Canadian on average per student.

Shoppers spend most of their back to school budget on clothing and accessories.

Children and youth are constantly growing and the current fashion trends are constantly changing. Parents have to struggle with buying expensive clothing for back to school or sending their children to school in hand-me-downs, second-hand clothes or older clothing that might be worn, faded or torn. Choosing the latter can often lead to children being bullied and a decrease in self-esteem, but buying new clothes can just be too expensive for many families.

School supplies such as books and binders come a distant second, followed by computers, hardware and electronic gadgets. Many of these items—textbooks, binders, notebooks, stationary, etc.—aren’t optional. Students need them to do the bare minimum of their work.

Back to School Spending in Canada. $365 million on girls' clothing and accessories. $325 million on boys' clothing and accessories. $549 million on school supplies. Source: The Retail Commodity Survey

For post-secondary students and an increasing number of high school students, computers are just as necessary. While there are cheaper options out there, a computer might cost more than the entire average cost of going back to school.

The biggest increase in spending is for mobile phones and wearable technology gadgets. Shopping for computers and hardware is still a big draw, but consumers are increasingly spending more on mobile phones and other electronics.

Owning a phone isn’t a luxury anymore. It’s a necessity in this day and age. Many argue that cell phones are critical in enabling an individual’s right to Internet access and their right to development. Furthermore, being able to connect and communicate with your friends and family is crucial for an individual’s social health.

Back to school shopping is now the second biggest shopping season after Christmas, so retailers are offering lots of incentives to get consumers in their doors.

That kind of pressure is hard for any parent to resist when students try to keep up with the trends in consumer shopping. Fortunately, the Deloitte study found that 31% of consumers plan to donate school supplies for those in need. Those donations will average around $51.

If your family is struggling to cover back to school costs, ask your school if there are any discounts or group shopping offers that could help reduce costs.

Not all back to school items are required for the start of classes, so wait for the school to advise you on what is needed and when so you can stagger purchases to ease the financial pressure. The school staff may also have ideas on how and where you can access donations that may be available for new or used goods.

Back to school should be a time of excitement, so ask your school if there are ways that your family could donate for those in need or make use of the generosity in your school district.

One of the ways that United Way Simcoe Muskoka is helping to reduce the impact of poverty in our schools is through our Youth United programs. This year’s projects include two in-school healthy snack and meal programs, as well as a revitalization of a school’s playground and outdoor space. Click here to learn more about Youth United.

If you want to stay up to date on UWSM and our work in our communities, subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to see how we’re spreading local love throughout Simcoe Muskoka.

About the author

Mary Ferguson is a UWSM Board member and Chair of  the External Relations Committee. She worked as a journalist, corporate communications leader and public relations consultant. As a mother of two, she remembers well the frenzy of back to school preparations.







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