Parents work to save cash on back-to-school supplies amid inflation

Published: Aug. 5, 2022 at 4:20 PM EDT
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As parents prepare their children for the new school year, they may be spending more and trying to cut back as inflation impacts all of us.

According to the National Retail Federation, families are spending an average of $864 per household on school items. That figure is up $15 from 2021 and a whopping $168 more than before the pandemic.

  • School supplies are up 8% because of inflation
  • Apparel is up more than 5%,
  • Food costs are up 12% in the West Palm Beach area
  • Juice is up 33 cents
  • Bread is up 38 cents and
  • Cereal costs are up more than 13%

A Greenacres mom explained how she's setting her family up for success while saving cash.

"It's simple ingredients that you probably have in your pantry," parent Tracey Horton-Rosario, said. "I never buy dressing from the store anymore.”

With food prices up more than 12% in a year, she's making more home-cooked meals to save money on her family’s groceries. As the summer winds down, she’s also shopping for deals on back-to-school supplies. First, Horton-Rosario starts with a budget.

"About $100 to $150, I would say. That includes extras for the teacher, so paper towels, wipes for the tables, anti-bacterial wipes," Horton-Rosario said. "So, I love Dollar Tree because you can find No. 2 pencils. You can find notebooks. You can find crayons, find sharpeners. You can find calculators."

Clothing is up more than 5% because of inflation. So, she and her family are saving more by shopping at thrift stores.

"That wasn't my mindset when I was his age, so he's saving me a lot of money. He's like, ‘Mom we can go buy jeans for $6, $10. We don't need to spend $40, $50, $60," Horton-Rosario said.

She will also recycle supplies from the year before like composition books.

"At the end of the year, I collected them. We usually put them in his closet. He has a little stash. And when school starts again [with some luck] you can use this, you can use this binder, which is brand new and that way I don't feel so overwhelmed," Horton-Rosario said.

She said looking for bargains is a priority but don't forget about getting the kids ready to return to the classroom.

"The most important thing is that first that the kids are mentally prepared," Horton-Rosario said. "OK, yeah, we talked about supplies. We talked about clothes, but are they mentally prepared?"

Mom Searches For Deals Online

Royal Palm Beach mom Rachel Bibey is on the hunt for deals while shopping for back-to-school items online.

"I ordered some of the clothes that I know my daughter likes as far as the pants and stuff," Bibey said.

School supplies are stacked high on her kitchen table after her online purchases.

"I figured it would save me money by not going into the store and save me time trying to find each individual supply," Bibey said.

The National Retail Federation found that half of families are buying school supplies online. Shopping around the web for the best deals is also saving her money on gas, since she’s not driving from store to store.

"I definitely saved money, and I definitely saved gas," Bibey said.

"I definitely saved money because I probably would have brought my kids, and they would have added about 30 extra items to the cart."

She's also avoiding the crowds at stores.

"I think I was definitely stressed less because I wasn't in the stores trying to do it," Bibey said. "I was in the comfort of my own home and I got to order them in my pajamas."

Everyone is taking a different strategy to get all of their supplies.

"With uniforms, supplies and jackets and stuff, I probably spent a good $500," Bibey said. "Last year I probably spent $400 maybe, so it's about a $100 increase."

Experts advise setting a budget and sticking to your list while shopping.

Ask teachers at the start of the school year which supplies are essential. Also, buy items in bulk and split with other parents.

Florida's tax-free holiday runs through Aug. 7. Florida families will save about $100 million.

There is no sales tax on clothing and shoes selling for $100 or less, school supplies that cost $50 or less or computers and accessories $1,500 or less.

New this year, there is no sales tax on learning aids under $30, which include items like books, flashcards and puzzles.

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